May 12, 2017 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese police on Thursday have released a social media activist who was arrested on charges of apostasy after he attempted to have his religion changed on official documents.
On Monday, police in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman detained Mohamed Salih (aka Baron), 23 years old, for requesting a court judge to change the religion section of his national identification card from Muslim to “non-religious”.
However, the judge on Thursday abruptly issued a decision dismissing the case and ordering the release of Salih, saying the defendant has been examined by a psychiatric and it was determined that he is mentally incompetent to stand trial.
In Sudan, the crime of apostasy carries the death penalty under article (126) of the 1991 Criminal Code.
Meanwhile, in a statement seen by Sudan Tribune Friday, the defence team rejected the court decision, saying “the right to claim mental illness is reserved only to the defendant or his legal representative and neither the defence team nor the defendant have asked the court to present him to a psychiatric”.
“Moreover, any mental illness can’t be verified until after the defendant is presented to a medical committee at a psychiatric hospital,” further said the statement.
It is noteworthy that the prosecution office on Thursday morning requested to have the investigation minutes and the defendant transferred to meet the prosecutor at noon. The defendant was then seen by a psychiatric inside the justice ministry and the charges have been dropped according to the doctors’ report.
The prosecution said:“the defendant suffers from psychological disorders and is incompetent for criminal accountability according to article 8 of the Criminal Code”.
“Therefore, the prosecution decided to cancel the criminal charges against the defendant and immediately release him and hands him over to his family for follow-up treatment with the psychiatrist,” added the statement.
The defence team further stressed “the inclusion of article (126) in the Criminal Code violates the right to freedom of religion and belief set forth in article (28) of the constitution and the international and regional human rights conventions and charters ratified by the government of the Sudan, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples”.
In 2014, a court in Khartoum sentenced a pregnant 27-year-old, Mariam Yahya Ibrahim, to death for apostasy and 100 lashes for adultery. However, following intense international pressure, she was released after months in prison.