Date:                       April 26, 2022


An Evangelical Lutheran Church leader was convicted on April 25 of "disturbing the peace" and sentenced to one month’s imprisonment after he was attacked by extremists during a church service in the Al Haj Abdalla Locality of Gezira State on April 10.
Pastor Stefanous Adil Kajo was convicted alongside his assailant Ibrahim Kodi (known locally as Banaga), who was found guilty of the same charge and sentenced to one month imprisonment. His conviction means he will spend the rest of the Orthodox Easter season in prison.
Pastor Kajo’s church has faced harassment from local extremists in recent years. In February, efforts were made to prevent them from accessing their building. Despite this, and an order to ban all use of the building, the leaders of the local neighborhood committee allowed the church to continuing meeting for worship there.
On April 3, extremists prevented members of the church from meeting in the building but allowed them to pray in the yard outside. On April 10, Kodi interrupted a church service. He struck Pastor Kajo, who was escorted from the building, and attacked other members of the church. One woman suffered cuts to the mouth and another received injuries to her hand. Two more individuals joined Kodi in tearing bibles and breaking chairs.
Following the attack, church leaders and some of the victims attempted to submit a criminal complaint with the police but were informed this would worsen the situation. However, the general prosecutor subsequently charged both Pastor Kajo and Ibrahim Kodi with disturbing the peace. The first hearing on this case was scheduled for April 17 but was postponed after Kodi failed to appear.
The trial was eventually held at the Al Haj Abdallah Criminal Court on April 25, Orthodox Easter Monday. During the hearing, Judge Awad Ibrahim Kori confirmed the charges against the two men, found them both guilty and explained his decision was meant to "prevent religious strife in the community." Defense lawyers for Pastor Kajo were alarmed by his conviction, given he had been the victim of an assault, and they had presented eyewitnesses who testified that the pastor had left the building without fighting back after Kodi attacked him while he prayed. Kodi corroborated the accounts of the defense witness that he forcibly entered the building and prevented the pastor from praying. Both men will serve their one-month sentences in the same facility.
CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said, “The charging and conviction of Pastor Kajo, who was the victim of an extremist attack in his place of worship, is a deplorable injustice. We call for an urgent review of this decision, and for his conviction and sentence to be quashed, particularly in light of the overwhelming evidence presented during his trial that attests to his innocence. Furthermore, the perpetrator reportedly confessed with pride that he had forced his way into the church and attacked the pastor during a service. The judge’s justification for this sentence lacks validity, given that it penalises the innocent victim of a crime. His decision only serves to further damage social cohesion and relationships between communities in the area. It panders to extremist sentiments that have emerged in recent months, further erodes the rule of law, and diminishes the trust of religious and belief minorities in governance and justice mechanisms.”