Christians imprisoned in Sudan freed after presidential pardon

A pastor and a Christian who were imprisoned in Sudan over espionage-related charges were released on May 11 after they received a presidential pardon, according to sources.

(REUTERS / Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah)Pastors help South Sudanese worshippers after attending Sunday prayers in Baraka Parish church at Hajj Yusuf, on the outskirts of Khartoum, February 10, 2013.

Speaking to Morning Star News in an interview, Rev. Hassan Abdelrahim Tawor's wife said she is grateful to God that her husband has finally been freed from prison. A relative also thanked God and the people who campaigned tirelessly for the freedom of the two Christians.

Rev. Tawor and Abdulmonem Abdumawla were arrested in December and imprisoned for allegedly helping Czech aid worker Petr Jasek, who was accused of espionage. The latter was reportedly freed on Feb. 25 after being granted pardon, but the two others were given 12-year jail sentences. Rev. Kwa Shamaal, who was arrested with Tawor, was acquitted of the spying charges on Jan. 2.

Abdumawla was arrested for collecting money to help a friend who was injured in a demonstration. He got in contact with Rev. Tawor, who also donated money for his friend. Authorities also reportedly found out that Jasek had donated money for the medical treatment, and he was accused of giving that money to rebel groups.

In response to the release of Pastor Tawor and Abdumawla,Christian Solidarity Worldwide chief executive Mervyn Thomas issued a press statement welcoming the presidential pardon. However, he also raised concern over the plight of religious minorities who continue to be targeted by authorities in Sudan.

"However, their case highlights our profound concerns regarding the rule of law in Sudan and the politicization of the criminal justice system by the National Intelligence and Security Services, which pursued the case against them," said Thomas in his statement. "We continue to call for the government to review and reform the powers of this body and to end the targeting of religious and ethnic minorities on spurious grounds."

After his release, Jasek talked about the physical and psychological abuse he endured while imprisoned in Sudan for 14 months. He said members of the Islamic State were with him in the cell, and they humiliated him because of his Christian faith, Door of Hope International reports.

In addition, Jasek talked about a place called "the refrigerator," which he said was the worst prison he was in. There, prisoners were constantly blasted with cold air. To make matters worse, he heard that his father died a month after he was thrown into jail.