Two Christian pastors have arrived safely home in Juba, South Sudan, after an eight-month ordeal of imprisonment on fabricated charges of capital crimes in Khartoum, Sudan, and a ban on leaving the country, Morning Star News reported Aug. 19.
Peter Yein Reith, 36, and Yat Michael, 49, were acquitted of the crimes calling for the death penalty on Aug. 5 but were prevented from boarding a plane out of the country the next day. Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) had issued the travel ban when they arrested the pastors, Michael on Dec. 14, 2014, and Reith on Jan. 11.
Although it was not immediately clear why the travel ban was lifted Aug. 19, Michael and Reith were transported from Juba International Airport to a Juba church for a service of thanksgiving.
“Thank God for their arrival home,” Michael’s wife told Morning Star News after the service.
South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church (SSPEC) leaders welcomed the pastors, who expressed their gratitude to Morning Star News amid the cheering congregation. An international outcry erupted over their weeks-long incarceration without charges after Morning Star News on Dec. 28, 2014, broke the news of Michael’s arrest, and on Jan. 20 published the first account of Reith’s arrest.
“Thank you very much, Morning Star News, for your great role which led to our release from jail,” Reith said.
Reith and Michael were convicted of lesser charges and released on the time they had served. Reith was convicted of “establishing or participating in a criminal organization,” while Michael was convicted of “disturbing public peace.”
The SSPEC pastors had also been charged with spying and undermining the constitutional system, two crimes punishable by death, life imprisonment and confiscation of property; disclosure and obtaining information and official documents, punishable by two years in prison or a fine; blasphemy/insulting religious creeds, punishable by one year of imprisonment, a fine or no more than 40 lashes; and joint acts in execution of a criminal conspiracy.
Michael was arrested after encouraging Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church; Reith was arrested after submitting a letter from SSPEC leaders inquiring about the whereabouts of Michael.
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SOURCE: Baptist Press, Staff/Morning Star News