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Sudan: Release the Twenty Five


December 21, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today condemned the Sudanese government for charging 25 Muslims with apostasy and public disorder.  Apostasy charges in Sudan carry the death penalty. 

The Sudanese government should drop all charges against these prisoners of conscience,” said USCIRF Chairman Dr. Robert P. George.  “These charges contradict Sudan’s constitutional commitments to freedom of religion or belief, religious diversity and religious tolerance.  The United States and other nations must continue to pressure the Sudanese government to release the 25 and uphold its international and constitutional commitments to religious freedom.” 

A Khartoum criminal court charged the 25 with apostasy on December 10, subsequently releasing them on bail on December 14.  The court proceedings will reconvene on February 9, 2016.  Five of the defendants were arrested on November 2 in a Khartoum mosque after organizing a public event in which they discussed their Islamic faith; the others were arrested the next day.  All were charged with apostasy because they interpret Islam differently than does the government: they view the Qur’an as the sole source of religious legitimacy and reject the Hadith.  In 2011, 125 members of this same mosque were arrested for apostasy, but were released after recanting. 

Article 126 of the Sudanese Criminal Code specifies that any Muslim who declares publicly that he/she adopts any religion other than Islam is guilty of apostasy, a crime punishable with death.  In January, the Sudanese parliament amended article 126 so that those accused of apostasy who later recant can be imprisoned for up to five years and receive 40 lashings. 

These arrests and the increased penalties for apostasy highlight the fact that the Sudanese government continues to violate, on a systematic, ongoing and egregious basis, the religious freedom rights of its citizens. They also underscore the appropriateness of Sudan’s long-time designation as a country of particular concern and the continuing need for the U.S. government to increase efforts to encourage reform and discourage regressive behavior,” said Chairman George. 

USCIRF in the 2015 Annual Report again recommended that Sudan be designated as a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) for its particularly severe violations of religious freedom.  The State Department has designated Sudan as a CPC since 1999, most recently in July 2014.  For more information, see the Sudan Chapter in USCIRF’s 2015 Annual Report.  

To interview a USCIRF Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at media@uscirf.gov or 202-786-0615.