Two South Sudanese pastors released on Wednesday (Aug. 5) after about eight months in jail have been banned from leaving the country, according to one of the attorneys who defended them against crimes calling for the death penalty.
The Rev. Peter Yein Reith and the Rev. Michael Yat were acquitted of the capital crimes but convicted of lesser charges, and they were released on the time they had served. The attorney clarified that Reith was convicted under Article 65 of “establishing or participating in a criminal organization” (not breaching the peace as previously reported), while Yat was convicted under Article 69 of “disturbing public peace” (not inciting hatred as previously reported).
The two pastors were preparing to board a plane with their families on Thursday (Aug. 6) when Khartoum International Airport authorities stopped them. The attorney said Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) ordered the ban when they were initially detained – Yat on Dec. 14 and Reith on Jan. 11 – and gave the orders to the airport personnel.
A relative asked for prayer.
“They have been prohibited from leaving Khartoum, but we are working now with their lawyer, and your prayers are very needed,” the relative said.
The pastors’ attorney has returned to the judge in their case to request lifting of the ban, but he was told to come back on Sunday (Aug. 9) to file a petition, according to Middle East Concern (MEC).
“However, the judge will only have jurisdiction if the travel ban was instituted by the prosecutor as part of the legal proceedings,” MEC advocates said in a statement. “If the travel ban was instigated by the Sudanese National Intelligence and Security Service, the judge will have no jurisdiction, and the lawyer will have to petition the NISS to have it lifted. This would be much more difficult.”
The South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SSPEC) pastors had also been charged with spying (Article 53), punishable by death, life imprisonment or prison and confiscation of property; undermining the constitutional system (Article 50), punishable by death, life imprisonment, or imprisonment and confiscation of property; disclosure and obtaining information and official documents (Article 55), punishable by two years in prison or a fine; blasphemy/insulting religious creeds (Article 125), punishable by one year of imprisonment or a fine or no more than 40 lashes; and joint acts in execution of a criminal conspiracy (Article 21).
Agents from NISS, said to be manned by hard-line Islamists, arrested the pastors.
Michael, 49, was arrested after encouraging Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church; the church was the subject of government harassment, arrests and demolition of part of its worship center as Muslim investors have tried to take it over. Reith, 36, was arrested on Jan. 11 after submitting a letter from SSPEC leaders inquiring about the whereabouts of Michael.
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Courtesy: Morning Star News
Publication date: August 7, 2015