By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) – Rafat Obid, a leader of the Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SPEC) in Khartoum, was detained and freed on bail on controversial charges, a human rights official told Worthy News Wednesday.
Mervyn Thomas, the founder President of the advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), said Obid was arrested and temporarily released on June 28 for “impersonating others.”
Thomas accuses the current government of continuing harsh policies of Sudan’s previous long-time leader Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir.
“Mr. Obid’s arrest is an unwelcome reminder of the relentless harassment and interference that church leaders experienced during the al-Bashir era,” Thomas stressed.
Obid, who also leads his denomination’s council responsible for its lands and properties, was reportedly accused of falsely representing himself as the leader of the Evangelical church.
The allegation came from an “illegally constituted committee” linked to previous president al Bashir’s Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowments, Christians said.
The committee claimed to act on behalf of the SPEC but was really part of broader efforts to prosecute churches, according to CSW investigators.
In 2017, Obid was acquitted by the Omdurman Criminal Court of similar charges filed by the controversial committee under Article 113 of Sudan’s Criminal Act, Worthy News learned.
Earlier in 2015, the Khartoum Administrative Court ruled that the Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowments made “an error.”
The court said the Ministry shouldn’t have authorized “the illegal” committee and must allow the Obid-led council to administrate on behalf of SPEC.
Despite the change in government, the 2015 ruling has yet to be implemented, according to Christians familiar with the situation.
Thomas suggested that this leaves Obid and his SPEC open to malicious prosecution by the illegitimate committee. In addition, Christians fear that the committee may continue selling church properties to local business people.
“The Transitional Government must urgently review the processes of the Ministry of Guidance and Endowments. And [the government should review the Ministry’s] practice of authorizing committees to administrate on behalf of religious organizations,” Thomas added.
Thomas warned that by “delaying the recognition of the legitimate” bodies SPEC and other denominations, “the government facilitates the arbitrary deprivation of their property.”
He urged the shaky transitional government that replaced al-Bashir’s administration “to correct the errors of previous administrations.” Thomas also said the CSW wants authorities to “end the long legal battles that these churches have fought to regain control of their affairs by recognizing their legitimate committees.”
He added that CSW asked Sudan’s “international partners to raise” with the government “concerns about regressive developments on the situation of human rights, and freedom of religion or belief in particular.”
Thomas spoke amid rising tensions in the mainly Sunni Muslim nation of 47-million people, Worthy News monitored.
On Wednesday, Sudanese authorities said they arrested hundreds of members of the former ruling party in Khartoum for plotting “acts of destruction.”
Police reportedly detained at least 200 members of the National Congress Party (NCP) Wednesday, on the 32nd anniversary of the coup that brought that party’s former leader, ex-President al-Bashir, to power.
The military overthrew Al-Bashir in April 2019 after mass demonstrations in the capital Khartoum and elsewhere that began in December of the previous year.
He was sentenced to a two-year prison sentence in Sudan on corruption charges and is currently on trial for the 1989 coup that brought him to power.
Al-Bashir is also wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on war crimes charges.
They include allegations related to his decision to crackdown on an insurgency in Darfur against his rule.
He sent in Janjaweed militias, accused of killing up to 300,000 people and driving as many as 2.5 million people from their homes.
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