Eight leaders from the Sudanese Church of Christ (SCOC) have been acquitted after challenging the government's decision to impose an unelected leadership committee upon their denomination.
The eight leaders, including the SCOS's elected president, were detained in 2017 after allegedly refusing to hand over administrative control of the church. On 9 August 2018, the case against the church leaders was dismissed. However, in July 2019, it was reopened and the leaders were charged with criminal trespass and illegal possession of SCOC properties, with the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court insisting that a new criminal trial must proceed.
Then, on 19 October 2020, a criminal court in Omdurman acquitted the leaders.
In response to the decision, Christian Solidarity Worldwide founder, Mervyn Thomas, said: "CSW welcomes the news of the acquittal of the eight Sudanese Church of Christ leaders. We hope that this ruling will finally close this painful chapter for the church, which has struggled for over three years to regain control over its internal affairs following the unwarranted interference by the former regime, which constituted a gross violation of the right to freedom of religion or belief.
"We urge the current Sudanese administration to ensure that the church leaders are free to live their lives and carry out their clerical duties without fear of further harassment through the judicial system.”
In an unrelated development, the Attorney General in Ombada recently levelled charges against 13 individuals accused of burning down of a temporary SCOC church in Jabarona earlier this year - this is the first time anyone has been charged for burning or damaging a church building. The church in question had previously been attacked by extremists four times between December 2019 and January 2020.
Thomas said of the legal action: “CSW welcomes the charging of the individuals responsible for burning down the church in Jabarona, which sets an important precedent for the country. Given that the former regime espoused religious and ethnic supremacism, the enjoyment of freedom of religion or belief and equal citizenship constitute the true litmus test for change in Sudan.
"We encourage the government to continue to promote, protect and fulfil freedom of religion or belief and human rights generally for every Sudanese citizen.”