Czech Christian jailed in Sudan receives presidential pardon
Persecution | A Sudanese pastor and an activist remain imprisoned for helping raise money for the victim of a pro-government militia attack
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 2/27/17, 12:09 pm
Sudan’s president yesterday pardoned a Czech Christian sentenced last month to 23 years in prison for raising money to support the victim of a pro-government militia attack.
Petr Jasek received the presidential pardon Sunday afternoon after President Omar al-Bashir met with Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek. Jasek returned home with the Czech delegation and arrived in Prague, the country’s capital, late Sunday night. Czech diplomats carried out several previous negotiations with Sudanese officials, Zaoralek said in a statement.
“The negotiations have been obviously worth it, even though it was a long-distance run,” he said. “I’m really glad that we’ve managed to bring Petr Jasek back home and that he can return to his family.”
Sudan’s security forces arrested Jasek in December 2015. A court last month sentenced him to 23 1/2 years in prison, with a $15,000 fine, for espionage and inciting hatred among sects, among other charges. The court also sentenced a Sudanese pastor and an activist to 12 years in prison for inciting hatred and offering criminal assistance to Jasek. The convicted Christians had raised money to support the medical treatment of a student badly burned at a demonstration in 2013. Pro-government militia set off the violence at Al Zaiem Alazhari University when they attacked a student forum protesting the government’s move to scrap fee waivers for students from the country’s Darfur region. The Sudanese government accused the Christians of supporting rebel groups in the country.
During a joint press conference with Zaoralek, Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour said al-Bashir released Jasek in recognition of the two countries’ historic relations. Jasek’s release includes a deal to revive the Czech Republic’s economic and security relations with Sudan, Zaoralek said.
Jasek will spend the next few days undergoing medical examinations and reuniting with his family, the foreign ministry said. He thanked the government for its efforts to rescue him and recounted some moments from his ordeal.
“I went through a total of five prisons and each movement meant a worsening of conditions,” Jasek told reporters when he arrived at the Prague airport. “The worst were the first two months, when I was in a cell with members of the Islamic State, who humiliated and tortured me.”
Zaolarek lauded Jasek for his courage, saying not everyone could survive the conditions he faced.
OpenDoors USA ranks Sudan fifth on its list of countries with the highest level of Christian persecution. Christian leaders in the country have said the government plans to demolish at least 25 church buildings, which it says are built on lands zoned for other uses.
Middle East Concern and Open Doors celebrated Jasek’s release but called on Christians to continue to pray for Sudanese Pastor Hassan Abduraheem and activist Abdulmonem Abdumawla, who remain imprisoned. The men’s lawyers this month filed appeals against the court’s ruling.
Onize is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Abuja, Nigeria.