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27 Sudanese ‘Sunna deniers’ on trial for apostasy: report

December 3, 2015 (KHARTOUM) – More than two dozen Sudanese Muslims have been charged with apostasy and disturbing the peace according to a report by Agence France Presse (AFP).

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A special judge sits in court in Nyala during the trial of six Sudanese men accused of belonging to the Janjaweed, 30 September 2004 (Reuters)

"The court in Kalakla in south Khartoum has started the trial of 27 defendants brought before it under Article 126 of Sudanese criminal law, apostasy from Islam," defence lawyer Ahmed Ali Ahmed told AFP by telephone.

The defendants have not renounced their Islamic faith but have reportedly declared their non-recognition of acts and statements attributed to Prophet Muhammad , also known as Hadith, that have been compiled hundreds of years after his death.

Sunni Muslims consider the Hadith a main source of Islamic jurisprudence that helps clarifies the Quranic text.

However, a sizable number of Muslims reject the introduction of non-Quranic texts for several reasons including their belief that it is not sacred and that its authenticity is questionable.

Under Sudanese law, the men could be sentenced to death if convicted.

Their lawyer told AFP that investigators told the court that police arrested five of the defendants early last month inside a market in the southern Khartoum neighborhood of Mayo "when they were talking to people about their conviction in the belief in the Quran and how they don’t recognize" other religious texts.

They are also charged with disturbing the public order, he added.

The trial of the 27 started last Sunday and went through four sessions during which the judge heard the investigators’ case against the men before it adjourned on Wednesday. It will resume next week.

It is very unlikely that the men will be executed. Last year, Sudanese courts reversed the death penalty against a Christian woman who was facing the same charge after being accused of changing religion.

The case drew fierce international condemnation and the government appeared to have succumbed to the pressure and had her released to travel abroad.

(ST)