27 Muslims on trial for apostasy in Sudan

Khartoum - Some 27 Sudanese Muslims are standing trial in a Khartoum court accused of apostasy, risking the death penalty if they are convicted, their lawyer told AFP on Thursday.

The men are accused of taking the Koran as the sole source of religious legitimacy and rejecting other Islamic texts.

"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.

If convicted of apostasy, the defendants could face the death penalty under the Sharia Islamic law that has been in place in Sudan since 1983.

They are also charged with disturbing the public order, Ahmed said.

Ahmed said investigators told the court that police arrested five of the defendants on November 2 inside a market in the southern Khartoum neighbourhood of Mayo "when they were talking to people about their conviction in the belief in the Koran and how they don't recognise" other religious texts.

He said that the remainder were arrested the next day for the same reasons.

The defendants are accused of belonging to adheres strictly to the Koran and rejects the authority of the sunnah, traditions attributed to the Muslim Prophet Mohammed.

Both Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims rely on the sunnah as a source of Islamic law.

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 resumes on December 8.

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