By Dahlia Lewis —
Two Sudanese pastors who were recently arrested and imprisoned on charges of alleged conspiracy and spying, are now potentially facing the death penalty. Reverend Peter Yen Reith and Reverend Yat Michael were held at the Omdurman Prison for Men outside of Khartoum since winter on charges of violating seven laws, including undermining the government and insulting religion, but have now been transferred to a high-security detention center Kober Prison in North Khartoum where they are denied seeing visitors.
In late 2014, Michael and Reith, who are clergymen from the South Sudan Evangelical Presbyterian Church, were both arrested by the National Intelligence Service of Sudan and then charged for several crimes, including joint criminal acts, undermining the constitutional system, waging war against the state, disturbing the peace, blasphemy, and espionage. Under the Sudanese law, three of those crimes are punishable by life sentence of death.
Both pastors were last seen at Omdurman Prison on June 3–the same day they were visited by three other Sudanese pastors and American pastor Reverend William Devlin. Reverend Devlin himself was detained for over an hour and barred from seeing the pastors after guards caught him taking photos and video inside the prison waiting room.
The PCA, Presbyterian Church USA, recently contacted President Barack Obama and other U.S. officials advocating for the rights of the two pastors. Along with Michael and Reith, the arrest and persecution of Christian pastors in Sudan occur regularly. As Reverend Tut Kony of the South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church says, “this is not ‘something new’ for our church. Almost all pastors have gone to jail under the government of Sudan. We have been stoned and beaten. This is their habit to pull down the church. We are not surprised. This is the way they deal with the church.”
Because the government of Sudan is a member of the United Nations, they are
required to uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which grants freedom of religion. Michael and Reith’s trial will continue on June 15th.