A Sudanese social media activist who was arrested on charges of apostasy last week has been released on the grounds of being “mentally incompetent to stand trial”. His lawyers rejected the court decision, on procedures and content.
Mohamed Saleh Abdelbagi was arrested in Omdurman on Monday for requesting the religion noted of his national identity card be changed from Muslim to “non-religious”.
On Thursday, a judge dismissed the case after the defendant had been examined by a psychiatrist who considered him “mentally incompetent”.
The defence team of three lawyers protested the judicial procedures in a statement on Friday, saying that “only the defendant or his legal representative are allowed to claim insanity. Neither the defence team nor the defendant have done this”.
The lawyers further state that mental illness has to be verified by a medical committee at a psychiatric hospital, while Abdelbagi was only examined by a psychiatrist within the Ministry of Justice “on Thursday afternoon”.
They point to the fact that “our client was seeking to cancel the religion box on the ID. He considered Article 126 a violation of freedom of religion, belief, and thought” and say that they agree with him in this.
“We affirm that the existence of Article 126 -apostasy- in the Sudanese Criminal Code violates the right to freedom of religion and belief provided for in article 28 of the Constitution of the Sudan and the international and regional human rights conventions and conventions ratified by the Government of the Sudan, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
“We also emphasise the values of citizenship, justice, equality and freedom of religion and belief,” they concluded.
The 23-year-old activist reportedly wrote in a Facebook post that “I have decided to directly and indirectly confront authorities so I can have my prevailing questions answered.
“Freedoms are indivisible… above all religious and ideological freedom,” he said before the post was deleted after his arrest.