Sudan Releases One of Two Church Leaders Imprisoned Since December 2015

Telahoon Nagose Kassa
Telahoon Nagose Kassa

Sudan has released one of two church leaders jailed since December, sources said, leaving another pastor incarcerated without charges.

Telahoon Nogose Kassa, head of discipleship at the embattled Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church, was released May 10 after Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) arrested him without charges Dec. 13, 2015, according to church members.

“Finally, Telahoon is released, thanks for your prayers and hope the rest will be released,” Kassa’s brother wrote on his Facebook page.

It was unclear why Kassa was released, but NISS can hold detainees for up to four-and-a-half months without judicial review, according to Human Rights Watch. Sudan was also subject to a United Nation’s Universal Periodic Review on human rights abuses last week.

A pastor with another church who was arrested in December remains in detention without charges. Authorities arrested the Rev. Hassan Abdelrahim Tawor, vice-moderator of the Sudanese Church of Christ (SCOC), at his home Dec. 18. No charges have been brought against him, although NISS officials were said to have objected to his Christian activities.

Historically holding wide-ranging powers to arrest people without cause, NISS was further empowered in January 2015 by amendments to Sudan’s constitution, which designated it a regular security force with a broader mandate to combat “political and social threats.” Said to be staffed by hard-line Islamists, NISS is known for its torture and other abusive tactics.

In arresting Kassa, NISS agents went to the 36-year-old’s home at night and told him to report to their offices, sources said. When he went to a NISS office the following day, they said, officials arrested him and took him to a detention center in Khartoum.

NISS officials gave no reasons for the arrest, though they questioned Kassa for five consecutive days about his relationship with a foreign missionary who had attended a discipleship class, sources said. Kassa was targeted for his Christian activities and his opposition to government interference with his church, sources believe.

Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church has fought a government takeover of its property. Kassa’s arrest came four months after two South Sudanese pastors, the Rev. Peter Yein Reith and the Rev. Yat Michael, were released following eight months in prison on false charges of capital crimes due to their efforts to defend the church against the illegal sale of its property.

Michael, 49, was arrested in December 2014 after encouraging Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church; the church was the subject of government harassment, arrests and demolition of part of its worship center as Muslim investors have tried to take it over. Reith, 36, was arrested Jan. 11, 2015 after submitting a letter from South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church leaders inquiring about the whereabouts of Michael.

NISS had also required another SCOC leader, the Rev. Kwa Shamaal, to report daily. He was arrested Dec. 18 and released three days later, but had been required to report daily to an NISS office, where he was held from 8 a.m. until midnight. That requirement was removed Jan. 16.

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SOURCE: Baptist Press
Morning Star News/Sudan correspondent