Eight leaders of the SCOC were initially arrested on August 23rd, 2017 and charged with trespassing on the church headquarters. They were also accused of refusing to hand over administrative control to an unelected church committee led by Mr Angelo Alzaki and appointed by the government.
The case against the leaders was dismissed by the court of first instance on August 9th, 2018. In his ruling, the judge commented that the case centred entirely on an administrative dispute which was not criminal in nature. The decision was hailed as a triumph for religious freedom within the criminal courts in Sudan. However the verdict was appealed, and subsequently the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court determined that a new criminal trial should proceed.
Lawyers working on the appeal informed human rights organisation, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) that the evidence used to support the higher courts consisted of documents submitted to the Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowments, the body responsible for registering and regulating religious organisations in Sudan.
The ministry has been widely reported to discriminate against religious minorities, including by issuing a ban on the construction of churches in Khartoum and interfering with the administration of Christian denominations.
CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: "We are extremely concerned to hear that the executive committee of the Sudanese Church of Christ is once again facing criminal charges. The re-opening of the case against them highlights the manifold discrimination and harassment faced by religious and ethnic minorities in Sudan. It also underscores the vulnerability of Sudan's marginalised communities and the urgent need for legal reform to protect the rights of these communities.
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