Friday, 11 November 2011

Sudanese Government Continues to Crackdown on the Freedom of Religion and Expressionالحكومة السودانية تواصل قمعها لحرية التعبير والاعتقاد...

(3 November 2011) On 8 September Suleman Aboulgasim Musa and 17 of his followers were charged with apostasy under Article 126 of the 1991 Criminal Act.  The arrests and charging of these individuals are part of an increasing crackdown on the freedom of religion and expression within Sudan. The government arrested 150 people on charges of apostasy in July and in October, the police chose not to respond to the defacement of a religious statue in a Catholic church in Kosti, While Nile state.    The closing of space for religious freedom and expression is particularly troubling in the context of ongoing constitutional debates in Khartoum over whether the new constitution should be based on sharia or on civil and political rights. Actions taken to suppress and punish religious minorities could be interpreted as way of intimidating and silencing proponents of a secular Sudanese state.

This case is being heard in Alazarhi Criminal Court before Judge Mohamed Etyeb and the investigating police officer is Haj Mohamed.  During the first court session held on 24 October, the police investigator stated that Musa believes himself to be Jesus Christ and a follower of the Prophet Mohammed.  The investigator added that Mr. Musa has espoused these ideas since 1981 and has many followers.  As evidence, the police documented Mr. Musa’s publications and writings on his website, entitled, “Series Publication of Messiah Almahadi Almuhamadi,” which were used to substantiate his religious and political views. The police prevented journalists from attending the hearing of the case in court, without giving any explanation. 

The accused include Suleman Aboulgasim Musa and his followers:
  1. Amir Hassan Mohamed Abdalla
  2. Sif Aldein Mohamed Daud
  3. Yousef Abdlgum
  4. Mohamed Ibrahim Bashir
  5. Mohamed Yousef
  6. Ibrahim Abakar Salih
  7. Mahir Muslim
  8. Murtada Hassan
  9. Abdlaziz Hassan
  10. Ahmed Daud
  11. Abdrhamn Hassan Adam
  12. Isam aldein Mohamed Fadul Almula
  13. Mtukil Sabir Younes
  14. Mahadi Bushra
  15. Abolagsim Abobkar khalifa
  16. Abdlnasih Ahmed Abdlaa Alsikh
  17. Suhail Saeed
The accused have been held in jail since 18 September.  According to Article 126, an apostate includes anyone “who propagates for renunciation of the creed of Islam or publicly declares his renouncement thereof by an express statement or conclusive act.”  If found guilty of the above offense, the defendants, subject to Article 126, will be given the opportunity to repent. Failure to repent may result in the application of the maximum sentence, which is the death penalty. 
The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) calls on the government of Sudan to respect the right to freedom of religion and expression.  Under article 38.1 of the Interim National Constitution, “every person shall have the right to the freedom of religious creed and worship, and . . . no person shall be coerced to adopt such faith, that he/she does not believe in, nor to practice rites or services to which he/she does not voluntarily consent.” Additionally, article 39 of the Interim National Constitution of Sudan states that “Every citizen shall have an unrestricted right to the freedom of expression, reception and dissemination of information, publication, and access to the press without prejudice to order, safety or public morals as determined by law. The State shall guarantee the freedom of the press and other media as shall be regulated by law in a democratic society.”
Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Sudan is a party, states that “everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.”
The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies strongly urges the Ministry of Justice to review the case and reminds the Government of Sudan of its relevant domestic and international obligations under the Interim Constitution and ICCPR. 

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