World Watch Monitor

After nearly eight months of legal limbo, a Sudanese court has finally seen three detained Christian leaders, while charges against them remain officially "unknown". 

Hassan Abduraheem Taour and Kuwa Shamal, both Sudan Church of Christ (SCC) pastors, and Darfuri convert Abdulmonem Abdumawla Issa Abdumawla, appeared at the Bahri Criminal Court for a pro-forma hearing after the prosecutor sent their case on 4th August, said Middle East Concern (MEC). 

The date for the next hearing is 14th August; earlier the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) indicated they will be prosecuted for "crimes against the state". 

On 10th May, the NISS released another evangelical church leader after nearly half a year in detention. Despite release, the file of Telahoon (Telal) Nogosi Rata (36) remains with the Attorney General, who could yet decide to press charges.

A number of other Christian leaders face restrictions, including Ayub Tilyab, Yagoub Naway (both also SCC pastors), Philemon Hassan, and Yamani Abraha of Khartoum El Izba Baptist Church – all have been alternately arrested, released, and then made subject to daily NISS reporting.

Meanwhile, authorities on 1st August notified three churches of demolition within 72 hours.

The churches, including the Baptist Church and the Sudan Church of Christ in the Hajj Yousef area of Khartoum "are resisting the scheduled demolition through the courts," reported MEC. (Both these two denominations have been meeting in the area since the early 1990s). 

Both Taour and Shamal had earlier asked authorities to either send their case to court or release them.

According to Sudanese law, 45 days from arrest a detainee should either appear before court or be released, a rule ignored in at least three of the recent Christian cases, those of Taour, Shamal and Rata.

Before their recent move to the nearby Omdurman prison, the pastors had expressed concern about their safety in police holding cells normally used to detain criminal suspects for up to 10 days.

A lawyer involved in the case told Christian Solidarity Worldwide that they were held in a small room where sometimes up to 25 men are also detained. "Their diet was poor and their health has suffered," the lawyer added. 

CSW reported that Kuwa had contracted malaria and despite requests to the prosecutor for medical attention, he only received treatment after his church paid for it. Doctors also found he was suffering from a blood infection caused by poor diet.

The ordeal for the men started mid-December. On 17th December, authorities detained Abdumawla, a Darfuri Christian from a Muslim background. The next day, Taour and Shamal were detained. Rev Shamal was released after three days but re-arrested on May 24th. 

Both Taour and Shamal are from the Nuba people group, native to a border region with the now independent South Sudan and among groups resisting ethnic and religious rule from Khartoum’s Arab Islamic regime.

Back in May this year, even before Shamal's re-arrest, sources reported that Rev. Taour would face several serious charges relating to "undermining national security," charges Sudan has previously used after prolonged detentions of Christians.

Taour, Shamal and Abdumawla were detained and investigated by the NISS, but their case was only handed to the General Prosecutor's office in May.