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Sudanese president grants pardon to pastor and Christian activist who were convicted of espionage

(Reuters/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah)Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir gives an address at the opening of the eighth session of Parliament in Khartoum October 28, 2013.

A Sudanese pastor and a Christian activist, who were sentenced to 12 years' imprisonment in January, were released from prison in Khartoum on Thursday after they were granted a presidential pardon.

Abdumonem Abdumawla and Rev. Hassan Abduraheem Taour were arrested in December 2015 for "aiding and abetting" Czech aid worker Petr Jasek, who was accused of "spying." In January 2016, the two men were sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment for espionage-related charges and two years' imprisonment for "inciting hatred between sects" and "propagation of false news."

Jasek, who was found guilty of espionage, causing hatred among communities and spreading false information, was sentenced to more than 20 years in prison, but he received a presidential pardon in February. Following his release, supporters argued that there are no longer reasons to keep the other two men in prison.

In March, Jan Figel, the EU Special Envoy for the Promotion of Freedom of Religion or Belief outside the EU, called for a presidential pardon for Abdumawla and Taour, World Watch Monitor reported.

On the day of their release, Christians gathered at Taour's home to thank God for answering their prayers.

"We thank God for his release, that is all I can really say for now," Taour's wife told Morning Star News.

"Thank God for all who really carried a campaign for the release of our two brothers," another relative said.

The case against the three men stemmed from their attempts to help Ali Omer, a Sudanese student who sustained injuries during a protest in 2013. When Jasek attempted to leave Sudan, the authorities found in his possession a receipt for $5,000.

The aid worker explained that the amount was for the student's medical costs, but the prosecution alleged that it was a donation to rebel groups in the southern regions of South Kordofan, Blue Nile, and Darfur.

Taour was arrested at his home in December 2015 for facilitating the meeting between Jasek and Omer. Abdumawla was apprehended that same month after he collected money to help the student.

Advocacy group Middle East Concern issued a statement calling on Christians in Sudan to celebrate the release of the two men. The group also asked Christians to pray for "an end to the increasing pressure against churches and other religious minorities in Sudan, and that they will know the peace of the Lord," and "that all officials involved will be touched by God's love and will change their ways."

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