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Apostasy case dismissed by prosecutor

9 Sep 2022

The General Prosecutor in Central Darfur, Sudan, has dismissed a case against four men charged with apostasy.

Badar Haroun Abdul-Jabbar, Mohamed Haroun Abdul-Jabbar, Tariq Aref Abdallah and Mortada Ismael Yousef were charged under Article 126 of the 1991 criminal code and released on bail on 6 July, despite the fact it had been amended in 2020 to remove the crime of apostasy.

The General Prosecutor transferred the men’s case to the Criminal Court in August, and the first hearing was scheduled to take place on 30 August. They attended the hearing, where the judge informed them that the file had been recalled by the prosecutor and indicated that the charges were likely to be dismissed as apostasy is no longer a criminal offence.  

The four men were initially arrested, questioned, and subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment on 24 June in Zalingei, Central Darfur. On 28 June they were arrested again and held at the main prison in Zalingei. On 3 July the men were brought before the prosecutor, who told them they would face the death penalty if they did not renounce their Christian faith and agree not to pray, share their faith or participate in any activities that would identify them as Christians. The men refused and were charged with apostasy.

During the civilian-led transitional period, which began in July 2019 and was ended by a military coup in October 2021, the government led by former Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok removed apostasy from the criminal statute books. It went on to pass legislation that made it a criminal offence to accuse any person of apostasy.

CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: “We welcome the dismissal of the criminal case against Badar Haroun Abdul-Jabbar, Mohamed Haroun Abdul-Jabbar, Tariq Aref Abdallah and Mortada Ismael Yousef. It is regrettable that they have been subjected to this trying legal ordeal when the crime they were accused of committing is no longer on the statute books. We continue to call for an investigation into the decisions made by the state officials who detained and charged the men, and for further investigations into allegations that they were subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment.”

Following the dismissal of the charges, the men are no longer required to comply with bail conditions, and the prosecutor has ordered the return of the belongings which were confiscated from the men during their arrest. The church they had formed, which was authorised by the Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowments during the transitional period, has decided to remain closed due to the threats and attacks they have received from extremists in their community. Three other churches have closed in Zalingei this year due to an increase in threats and violence.

Following the military coup on 25 October 2021, confidential sources informed CSW that church leaders living in camps for internally displaced people were threatened by officials who told them they would face apostasy charges if they continued to meet to pray. When the leaders protested, citing the legal changes made under the transitional administration, they were informed that the coup had changed the legal situation.

Mr Thomas continued: “While we welcome the release of these men, we remain concerned by the deteriorating security and human rights situation in Sudan. Reports from the church in Central Darfur that it is not safe for them to reopen, plus reports of other churches that have closed in the last year, are a stark illustration that freedom of religion or belief is under serious threat. We call on the international community to raise these cases directly with Sudan’s military leaders as a matter of urgency.”



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