Christians celebrate Pastor’s release in Sudan
KHARTOUM, Sudan (AA) – Dozens of Sudanese and South Sudanese Christians celebrated two pastors’ narrow escape from the death penalty in Sudan earlier this month.
Relatives of the pastors, both from South Sudan, and followers of the Sudanese church chanted and prayed in front of a Sudanese court in the capital Khartoum after the court dropped a host of serious charges against the pastors who had been imprisoned for eight months.
Yat Michael, 49, and Peter Yen, 37, were found not guilty by the Sudanese court of Khartoum, which ordered their immediate release after a lengthy legal battle.
Many international organizations and Western countries have repeatedly accused Sudan of humiliating Christians, charges the Sudan government dismisses.
Judge Ahmed Mohammed Ahmed dropped four charges against the pastors, but found them guilty of others.
Charges of spying, attempt of undermining the constitutional system, disclosure and obtaining information of official documents and promoting hatred amongst or against sects were all dropped.
But the judge also found, however, that the two pastors were guilty of disturbing public peace and terrorism.
Muhanad Mustafa, head of the defense team, expressed his satisfaction with the final verdict, but also told Anadolu Agency that he had some reservations about the court’s judicial process and the two remaining charges.
He said the prosecutor had failed to build a convincing case and presented weak evidence to the court.
The prosecutor, for his part, said that he will appeal the verdict, but refused to give further details.
Hundreds of Sudanese and southern Sudanese Christians and representatives from the U.S., U.K. and European embassies were all in attendance at the decisive court session, which was surrounded by a heavy police presence.
Michael’s wife, Rebecca Antony, was among those who celebrated the verdict.
“God has stood beside us as my husband was innocent,” she told Anadolu Agency. “Finally we are able to be together as one family.”
“We as a family also suffer greatly even if we are outside the jail,” she added.
David N. Saperstein, U.S. ambassador for international religious freedom, also expressed his satisfaction with the verdict to Anadolu Agency.
“The release of the two pastors and the fact that they are returning to their families is something good and it is really something that should be celebrated,” he said.
Sudan sparked international condemnation last year when a Sudanese woman, Meriam Ibrahim, was charged with apostasy for converting from Islam to Christianity and marrying a Southern Sudanese-American man.
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