Sudan Tries Two Pastors on Charges That May Bring Death Penalty

Sudan began the trial of two South Sudanese church leaders accused by authorities of espionage and undermining the constitution, charges that could carry the death penalty, a defense lawyer said.

Yat Michael and Peter Yen attended proceedings at a criminal court in Sudan’s capital of Khartoum on Tuesday, Mohannad Mostafa, a member of the defense team, said by phone. Officials from the National Intelligence and Security Service recited the claims against the defendants, Mostafa said.

“The charges are fabricated by security,” Mostafa said. “There is no evidence against them.” Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman didn’t answer two calls seeking comment.

Amnesty International, the London-based advocacy group, in February said the two pastors were being held in secret detention and were at risk of torture. Michael was seized by men identifying themselves as security officers on Dec. 21 during a visit to Khartoum, Amnesty said. Yen, who’d sent a letter to Sudanese authorities inquiring about Michael, was arrested on Jan. 11 after being summoned to a security office, it said.

The next court session is scheduled for May 31, Mostafa said.