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Monthly archives: February, 2017

Czech shared Sudan prison cell with Islamic State convicts who beat him up and abused him

Petr Jašek. Voice of the Martyrs

A Czech Christian aid worker, freed from prison in Sudan on 26 Feb, has spoken of how the prison authorities treated him.

“The first two months were probably the most severe for me because I was placed in a cell together with members of the Islamic State, who humiliated me as a Christian. It then escalated into humiliation and physical beatings, and psychological torture and humiliation,” Petr Jašek told reporters once safely back on Czech soil late on Sunday night.

He was moved from prison to prison – five in total – “with each getting worse and worse”, he said.

One of the prisons had been known as “the refrigerator” because prisoners were subjected to constant blasts of cold air; he said it was “terrible”.

For someone who’d been in Sudanese prisons for 14 months, he looked remarkably well as he and the Czech Foreign Minister, who’d personally flown to Khartoum to ensure his release, posed for a “selfie video” on the Czech Airlines plane bringing him home.
Nicknamed “Karl Marx” by fellow prisoners due to his bushy beard, Jašek had had a day in “house arrest” (still in prison) in which that was shaved off, and he had a chance to get completely clean. Friends said he looked remarkably well, though he has lost 25kg in weight.

His Foreign Minister paid him tribute, saying: “The conditions were very heavy. I am convinced that he is really an extraordinarily brave guy. Most people could not stand it.”

Jašek said one of the hardest blows during the year of his imprisonment awaiting trial was finding out his father had died a month after it happened.

In early February, the Czech and Sudanese governments had agreed that the Czech Foreign Minister would visit Sudan on 26 February, and that Jašek would then be released into his care.

Former US Congressman Mark Siljander, who has good connections in Sudan, also visited Khartoum in recent days and petitioned the authorities for the release of Jašek and his two co-defendants, Rev. Hassan Abduraheem Kodi Taour and Darfuri graduate Abdulmonem Abdumawla.

However, Jašek said he didn’t know for sure that he would finally be free to leave the prison and Sudan until about 4pm (local time) on the Sunday afternoon.

Abdulmonem Abdumawla (left) and Hassan Taour. MEC / WWM

His co-defendants were each sentenced to 10 years for abetting Jašek in the crime of espionage, and one year each for inciting strife between communities and spreading rumours undermining the authority of the state (even though the legal maximum penalty for this last crime is six months in prison). All of these sentences are to be served consecutively. Their lawyers appealed against the sentences on 9 Feb.

In a press briefing at Prague’s Kbely military airport shortly after landing at about 11pm Czech time, Jašek spoke briefly to thank all those involved in diplomatic efforts to secure his release.

The Czech Republic broke off diplomatic relations with Sudan in protest at his arrest, so it was its Ambassador to Egypt who represented the Czechs as they pursued diplomatic efforts.

Jašek also thanked the Swiss Ambassador to Sudan, who had attended every hearing.

The 52-year-old aid worker also spoke of the psychological distress caused by the endless delays and postponements of hearings in his 14-month-long case, some of them even blamed on the judge being on holiday on the dates set.

Minister Lubomir Zaorálek said that he’d felt an obligation to help Jašek, who had only been helping others.

Comparing cases when his Foreign Ministry has to intervene on behalf of Czech citizens who are in trouble abroad (whether by design or accident), he said it had been doubly important to help Jašek, of whom it had said a month ago that there was no evidence to support his conviction or sentence.

Zaorálek said that Khartoum was finally convinced that Jašek “had no intention to undermine” Sudan.

“We’ve tried from the first moment to intervene and help,” he said. “It is interesting for me to then check to what extent our attempts have been really effective, the extent to which the tide went against what we wanted. I am glad that Mr. Jašek clearly appreciated our efforts even during his imprisonment.”

“It is deeply regrettable that the amnesty granted to Mr. Jašek was not extended to his co-defendants, particularly in view of the fact that the case against them was predicated on his alleged actions and conviction.”

–Mervyn Thomas, CSW

Jašek also thanked Christians around the world for their prayers, which he said had helped both to sustain him and to bring about his eventual pardon by President Omar al-Bashir.

After the short press briefing at the airport, he was taken to an undisclosed hospital where he had an emotional reunion with his wife Wanda.

“It’s absolutely incredible to have him back again”, she tearfully told friends later.

A close relative of Jašek’s described how she was sitting on a crowded train when she got the news, and how tears were streaming down her face, to first the surprise, then delight of other passengers.

Jašek, who spoke confidently at the press briefing, described how the sight of the Czech Airlines plane sent to bring him home made him feel very proud of his homeland.

And he urged supporters not to forget the two men still in Sudan’s Kober prison, convicted to 12 years each for aiding him.

As Christian Solidarity Worldwide’s CEO Mervyn Thomas put it: “It is deeply regrettable that the amnesty granted to Mr. Jašek was not extended to his co-defendants, particularly in view of the fact that the case against them was predicated on his alleged actions and conviction. These men remain in a maximum security prison despite the evidence against them being so weak that the case should not have proceeded to trial, let alone resulted in such lengthy convictions.

“CSW calls on the Sudanese Government to review and overturn the verdict and sentences given to Revd. Abduraheem and Mr. Abdumawla. We also call on the EU to urge Sudan to expedite the release of the men so that they too can return to their families.”

Ján Figeľ, EU Special Envoy for freedom of religion or belief outside the EU, has also worked behind the scenes to get Jašek and the others freed. In Oct, a resolution to that effect was passed by the European Parliament.

Background

In August 2015, the Sudan government was forced to release two South Sudanese pastors, whom it had accused of “spying”, after international attention on the case. Yat Michael and Peter Yen were in prison for eight and seven months respectively.

Following South Sudan’s independence in 2011, President Bashir – wanted by the ICC for crimes including “genocide” – has reasserted Sudan as an Islamic state governed by Sharia. Pressure has been ratcheted up against Christians, including in South Kordofan’s Nuba Mountains.

According to Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List, Sudan ranks 5th of 50 countries where Christians come under the most pressure. The country has a rating of “extreme” and for the past three years has remained among the top 10 offenders.

Source: World Watch Monitor



Egypt’s President orders assistance for fleeing Sinai Christians

By Alex Williams

Egypt’s president has ordered the government to “take all necessary measures” to help resettle hundreds of Christians fleeing North Sinai after a recent spate of deadly attacks on believers.

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met other political leaders and officials to discuss the situation in the province after seven Christians were killed by Islamic State in the last month.

According to his address, which was quoted by Reuters, he “directed the government to take all necessary measures to facilitate settlements for citizens in their set resettled areas.”

The exodus by Coptic Christians from North Sinai to the neighbouring province of Ismailia comes amid an insurgency being waged by IS, which shot five of the recent victims, beheaded one and set another on fire.

During a summit attended by Egypt’s prime minister and several ministers at the weekend, Sisi also discussed “the importance to resist all attempts to sabotage stability and security in Egypt.”

Coptic Christians, who comprise approximately ten per cent of Egypt’s population, have long complained of persecution against their community.

A bombing by Islamic State on a Coptic chapel next to St Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo left 28 people dead, the majority of whom were women and children.

Hundreds of soldiers and police have been killed in an insurgency which accelerated in 2013 after a military coup led by Sisi ousted President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Source: Premier Christian



PETITION CALLING FOR THE IMMEDIATE RELEASE OF CHRISTIANS IMPRISONED BY SUDAN!

Friends In The West supports International Christian Concern in their call for a petition calling for the release of three Christian men imprisoned in Sudan.

Below is the ICC article and an opportunity to sign their petition.

#releasethem

International Christian Concern needs your help! Please join us and raise your voice in defense of three men who have been wrongfully convicted of numerous charges by the Sudanese government. Their crime? Providing money for medical care to a man who had once demonstrated against the Sudanese government.

Petr Jasek, a Czech national, was given a 20 year sentence, while two other men, Reverend Abudraheem and Mr. Abdumawla were given ten year sentences each. Other convictions included three and a half years and 100,000 Sudanese Pound fine for entering and photographing military areas, inciting hatred between sects, propagation of false news, entering the country illegally, and violating Articles 8 and 23 of Sudan’s Volunteer Act. The other two gentlemen were also given additional two year sentences for inciting hatred between sects and for propagation of false news. These sentences are to run consecutively.

We ask you to join us in petitioning the government of Sudan for the immediate and unconditional release of three Christian men! Sign and share the petition today!
Petition to Release Three Christian Men Imprisoned in Sudan!
This case arose when Mr. Jasek gave a gift of $5,000 to a Darfuri student for medical care after he was injured in a student demonstration in 2013. The Sudanese government framed their prosecution that this was actually aid to rebel movements throughout Sudan and that Mr. Jasek and the other men’s actions were crimes against the state, rather than the purely humanitarian act that it was.

For Mr. Jasek’s act of compassion, he, along with the two other men, now faces a wrongful and lengthy prison sentences. Please help these men by signing on to our petition and making your voice heard!

SIGN THE PETITION NOW!

“Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” -Hebrews 13:3 (ESV)

Source: International Christian Concern



Egypt’s Coptic Christians flee Sinai after deadly attacks

More Christian refugees from Sinai are expected to arrive in Ismailiya

Dozens of Coptic Christian families in Egypt have fled North Sinai province after a number of killings in recent weeks by suspected Islamist militants.

Many have now taken refuge in the Evangelical Church in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia.

The Coptic Church has condemned the attacks, saying they were aimed at “dividing” Egyptians.

On Sunday, Islamic State militants released a video, warning of more attacks on Egypt’s Christian minority.

The Copts – who make up about 10% of the country’s 90 million population – have often been targeted by Islamists in recent years.

Most of the Islamist militant attacks of recent years have been focused on the Sinai peninsula, where an IS-linked jihadist group is active, but the capital Cairo has also suffered a string of attacks in the past two years.

‘Scared of our shadows’

About 250 Christians with their belongings were now in Ismailiya’s church, deacon Nabil Shukrallah said on Friday.

“They’ve come running with their children. It’s a very difficult situation. We’re expecting 50 or 60 more,” he told the AFP news agency.

Meanwhile, refugees said they were now “scared of our shadows”, adding that they “are being targeted in an ugly way”.

Many of them were from the city of El-Arish, where at least seven Christians have been killed.

Egypt has seen a wave of attacks by militants since 2013 when the military overthrew President Mohammed Morsi, an elected leader who hailed from the Muslim Brotherhood, and launched a crackdown against Islamists.

Some of Mr Morsi’s supporters blamed Christians for supporting the overthrow.

In December, a bomb explosion in the Coptic Christian cathedral in killed at least 25 people.

Source: BBC News



Kidnap of German archaeologists highlights growing insecurity in southern Kaduna

In the village of Goska, houses were destroyed, churches burnt and shops vandalised in a December attack. World Watch Monitor

Two German archaeologists have been kidnapped by unknown gunmen in southern Kaduna, highlighting the growing insecurity in the northern Nigerian state.
The kidnapping of the two men, who have been working in the region for 10 years, took place in Kagarko*, 80km (50 miles) from Kafanchan, where more than 800 people have been killed since 2011.

Nigeria’s Middle Belt, which includes Kaduna, Nasarawa, Taraba, Benue and other states, is the scene of frequent attacks on Christian farmers (often called indigenes) by mainly Muslim Hausa-Fulani nomadic herdsmen.

Earlier this week, heavily armed herdsmen killed at least 30 people, including two policemen, and destroyed homes over two days in the mostly Christian communities of Kafanchan and Kagoro.

Local Christians say security personnel are preventing the Christians from protecting their own communities while allowing the Fulani to attack without any interference.

The violence had reached a peak over Christmas when dozens of Christians were killed. That prompted local authorities to declare a 24-hour curfew in three Local Government Areas (LGAs): Jema’a, Kaura and Sanga.

The Nigerian National Human Rights Commission in December 2016 had called on President Muhammadu Buhari to put an end to the ongoing deadly attacks. At the same time, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project asked the UN to investigate the killings. Dr. Agnes Callamard, UN special rapporteur on Extra-Judicial or Arbitrary Executions, promised to look into the massacres, with a view to ensuring that justice prevails and the culprits are punished.

Church groups in northern Nigeria have condemned recent killings, which they say are aimed at wiping out the Christian presence in the region. The attacks, which have claimed hundreds of lives, have affected mainly the central states of Plateau, Nasarawa, Taraba and Benue, but also Kaduna. Southern Kaduna has been particularly targeted, with attacks occurring almost on a weekly, or even daily basis recently.

Kaduna’s state government had responded to the insecurity by relocating the Army Commander and Police Commissioner to southern Kaduna.

Many groups and individuals, including Peter Bawa, the Chairman of the Northern Christian Youth Assembly, have commended the state governor, Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai, for initiatives taken so far, believing that they will go a long way to curtail the menace of herdsmen who have plunged many communities in the area into mourning.

However, some of southern Kaduna’s indigenous population interviewed by World Watch Monitor said the government was militarising the conflict, using military force as the first and not the last resort, often without civilian engagement.

The state government has also accused church leaders, activists, journalists and even traditional rulers, seeking to raise awareness about the violence, of committing hate speech, incitement and attempting to secure foreign funding. Several have been taken in for questioning or briefly detained.

On 17 February, activist and lawyer Audu Maikori, who had mistakenly tweeted a false report before retracting it and apologising unreservedly, was arrested in Lagos and flown to Abuja, where he was detained overnight on a warrant reportedly issued in Kaduna.

Source: World Watch Monitor