July 14, 2015 (KHARTOUM) – A Sudanese court on Tuesday listened to the testimony of a retired army officer in the case of two pastors from South Sudan who were charged with spying, espionage and inciting tribal sentiments.
The presiding Judge Ahmed Gabosh dismissed objections raised by the prosecutors over allowing Brigaider Abdelaziz Khalid to take the witness stand arguing that he is an opposition figure who is hostile to the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) which brought the case against the two defendants.
But Muhannad Mustafa, a defense attorney, said that Khalid is present in his capacity as a military and security expert and that he is testifying under oath.
“There are some government opponents who are members of parliament,” in response to Khalid’s political position.
The court accepted Khalid’s testimony at this stage pending subsequent analysis of the weight it should be afforded and noted that this is criminal case governed by law and has nothing to do with the government or the opposition.
Khalid said in his testimony that all the maps and coordinates seized in the personal computers of the defendants have nothing to do with not with the military or intelligence and is publicly available on the internet.
He stressed that the data as related to civilian sites and not military ones.
Khalid further asserted that the prestige of the state is not undermined by these maps which purportedly show the dissection of Sudan into several states, pointing that they are published in daily newspapers.
Reverend Yat Michael and Reverend Peter Yen – of the South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (PEC) – have been detained by Sudan’s NISS in Khartoum at two separate occasions.
Michael, a visiting pastor from South Sudan, was taken into custody in December after giving a service at the Khartoum North church of the PEC.
Reverend Peter Yen was also visiting Khartoum when he was arrested last January after responding to a summons to report to an office of the NISS.
The two pastors face charges pertaining to spying for foreign bodies and collecting information that undermine Sudan’s national security. Some of those charges are punishable by death.
The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies said in a statement last month that the pair were targeted for making public remarks criticizing a corruption scandal at a Khartoum Church and the treatment of Christians in Sudan.