Yesterday, the two South Sudanese pastors facing charges of espionage in Sudan, Rev. Yat Michael and Rev. Peter Yen, were acquitted and released. They had faced the death penalty for their alleged crimes and were detained for more than eight months leading up to the trial. Their lawyer had only been accorded visitation rights, and was himself arrested before crucial hearings.
Commenting on their acquittal and release, our Director Olivia Warham MBE said:
“It’s of course great news that the Reverends Yat Michael and Peter Yen have been acquitted and released. But the Sudanese judiciary shouldn’t get a pat on the back for finally doing the right thing. Their trial failed to meet the most basic standards of legitimacy or credibility, but thankfully even a kangaroo court can sometimes reach the right decision.
“We shouldn’t let their acquittal and release distract from the fact that the Sudanese judiciary is not independent. It instead dutifully obeys the political requirements of the ruling National Congress Party. Part of the reason Reverends Yat Michael and Peter Yen were originally arrested was for the regime to prove its Muslim bona fides by cracking down on the expression of Christianity. The regime’s piety is about all that can engender loyalty from an increasingly restive Sudanese public. President Omar Al-Bashir presides over a collapsing economy, huge unemployment, rampant inflation, and seemingly endless bloody conflict in the country’s peripheries. This is by no means the end of this story – I wouldn’t be surprised if the Reverends or their lawyer were re-arrested on yet more trumped-up charges.”