Sudan Tries 27 on Apostasy Charge That May Bring Death Sentences

  • Accused believe in minority strand of Islam, rights-group says
  • Sudan woman's apostasy sentence in 2014 sparked global outrage

A Sudanese court could sentence 27 Muslims to death for believing in a strand of Islam that’s considered apostasy under new amendments to the country’s religious laws, a rights organization said.

The accused were arrested Nov. 3 outside a small mosque in the capital, Khartoum, according to the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies. Two imams who’d delivered speeches were among those arrested, as well as at least three children. Their trial began on Sunday.

“They are facing trial because they are Quranists, who follow the Holy Quran as their only guide,” the center’s Mohamed Badawi said by phone from Uganda’s capital, Kampala. “They are not committed to the religious authority of the Hadith -- narratives of what the Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said and done.”

Rabie Abdel Ati, a senior member of Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party said via text message that he had “no information about the case.” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ali Al Sadig said the same, while Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman didn’t answer two phone calls and a text message.

Badawi urged the international community to put pressure on Sudan to repeal laws he said are eroding freedom of religious belief in the North African country.

“It is a worry they are on trial for having a totally different opinion to what is the way to believe in Islam,” he said. “The trial is being used to repress people.”

Last year, a Sudanese court sentenced a woman, Meriam Yehia Ibrahim, to death after she refused to recant her Christian faith in favor of Islam, sparking global condemnation. After an appeals court canceled the sentence, Ibrahim was eventually allowed to leave the country and was received by Pope Francis.

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