Two South Sudanese pastors who were facing trial for suspected espionage are now free.
Rev. Yat Michael and Rev. Peter Reight were arrested on six charges, including “offending Islamic beliefs,” promoting hatred and undermining the constitutional system, according to Christian Today.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) confirmed the men’s freedom on Wednesday. In a hearing on Wednesday, Michael was convicted of inciting hatred and Reith was convicted of breaching public peace. Both were released on time already served.
"I am feeling free because I was in jail for many months. I have become like I'm born again,” Michael said.
CSW’s chief executive Mervyn Thomas said CSW is “overjoyed” at the decision.
Had the men been found guilty of all charges, they could have faced life imprisonment or the death penalty.
Reith was arrested in January and Michael was arrested on Dec. 14. According to reports from Christian Today, the men were denied access to their lawyers on many occasions.
Many, including Amnesty International, had asked for their release, calling the charges “unwarranted and extreme.”
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom says the Sudanese government “continues to engage in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of freedom of religion or belief."
Publication date: August 5, 2015