Pastor re-arrested in Sudan could face capital crime charges

Sudan pastor
The Rev Kwa Shamaal. (PHOTO: Morning Star News)

Originally published in Morning Star News

Sudanese authorities on Wednesday (May 25) re-arrested Sudanese church leader Kwa Shamaal, who along with a denominational colleague could face charges calling for the death penalty, attorneys said.

Pastor Shamaal, head of missions for the Sudanese Church of Christ (SCOC), was re-arrested in Khartoum after a National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) prosecutor interrogated him at security offices, they said. Pastor Shamaal and the Rev. Hassan Abdelrahim Tawor, SCOC vice-moderator, had been arrested from their respective homes on Dec. 18, 2015, with Pastor Shamaal released on Dec. 21 but required to report daily to NISS office, where he was held from 8 a.m. until midnight. That requirement was removed on January 16.

On May 10 his colleague, Abdelrahim Tawor, was transferred from prison to a holding cell of a court for those facing crimes against the state, indicating to attorneys that his trial could come soon under fabricated charges of spying and other serious offenses calling for the death penalty. An attorney said Pastor Shamaal could face the same charges.
“The prosecutor who interrogated him told him that he was included with other church leaders who are accused of spying and other capital offenses,” he said.

Lawyers defending Abdelrahim Tawor said NISS, which has broad powers to arrest Christians, non-Arabs and other minorities without cause, typically concocts charges against church leaders of undermining the constitutional system, forming foreign organizations and spying.

Abdelrahim Tawor, along with other pastors, was arrested after attending a missions conference in Addis Abba, Ethiopia last year. Upset by the conference, NISS official interrogated Abdelrahim Tawor about accusations that those in attendance spoke of Sudan’s government persecuting Christians, a claim church leaders deny.

One church leader said the conference dealt only with how to carry out missions.

“We do not know why they are asking this question [about persecution],” said the church leader, whose name was withheld for security reasons. “Let us continue to pray for Rev Hassan.”

Most SCOC members have roots among the ethnic Nuba in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan’s South Kordofan state, where the government is fighting an insurgency. The Nuba along with other Christians in Sudan face discrimination, as President Omar al-Bashir has vowed to introduce a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and Arabic language.

Due to its treatment of Christians and other human rights violations, Sudan has been designated a Country of Particular Concern by the U.S. State Department since 1999, and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended the country remain on the list in its 2016 report.

Sudan ranked eighth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2016 World Watch List of countries where Christians face most persecution.

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