Two jailed South Sudanese pastors have been set free after a judge found them guilty, but ruled that they already served their sentences.
Yat Michael and Peter Yen Reith were convicted respectively of breaching the peace and managing a criminal or terrorist organization.
Michael and Reith together faced six charges, but were not convicted of four of them, including undermining the constitutional system and espionage—charges which carry punishments of the death penalty or life imprisonment.
“I am feeling free because I was in jail for many months. I have become like I’m born again,” Michael told Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) in a statement.
Last December, Michael was imprisoned after preaching at Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church, which had been harassed by the government as Muslim investors tried to take it over, according to Morning Star News (MSN). In January, Reith was arrested after inquiring about Michael’s disappearance. Members of the National Intelligence and Security Services, whom many believe is run by radical Islamists, were responsible for Michael and Reith's arrests.
"Tell the whole church that God has heard your prayers and the pastors are now free. They have been released," one of the wives of the men told MSN.
CT noted the pastors' plight after a recent American attempt to visit “the least of these” in jail possibly did more harm than good.
CT’s previous coverage of Sudan includes its redesignation as a country of particular concern in April and its rise from No. 11 to No. 6 on Open Doors’ World Watch List. In 2014, Sudan banned the construction of new church buildings, arguing that the majority of Christians had left Sudan for South Sudan and the remaining Christians did not need more buildings. Prior to this ordinance, Sudanese authorities also demolished several churches.
In 2013, Sudanese law enforcement broke into the Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church's compound, beating and arresting Christians.