A New York City-based pastor was detained earlier this week at a military prison in Sudan while attempting to visit two Presbyterian pastors facing potential death sentences after they were charged with various trumped-up espionage and conspiracy charges by the government.
This week, the Rev. William Devlin, pastor of the Infinity Bible Church in South Bronx, visited Sudan for his eighth time in nine years.
After meeting with pastors from the Sudan Council of Churches, Devlin was invited to travel along with three other Sudanese pastors, including SCC General Secretary Kori Kuku, to the Omdurman Prison for Men on Wednesday in hopes of visiting with imprisoned pastors Yat Michael and Peter Yen Reith.
As previously reported, Michael and Reith were imprisoned over last winter and have been charged with seven different crimes against the state including spying, undermining the constitution, publishing information against the government, disturbing public peace, insulting religion, conspiracy and inciting hate among tribes.
In a Friday afternoon interview with The Christian Post, Devlin said he spoke with the pastors' attorney, who asserts that all allegations against the men are false. The charges, however, are serious enough to sentence them to capital punishment or life in prison.
In trying to show the imprisoned pastors that they have the support of American Christians, Devlin said he was anxious for the opportunity to meet with the pastors. Once Devlin and the three other pastors arrived at Omdurman Prison, which is located just an hour outside of Khartoum, they were forced to wait in a small waiting room, the size of "two walk-in closets," for over 30 minutes with about 50 other people.
While waiting, Devlin said he took out his phone and started taking pictures and videos of the conditions inside the prison, which eventually caught the attention of the of a prison guard who began questioning the 61-year-old American.
"A guard came up to me after we were there for about 30 minutes and he said 'Come with me, you are taking pictures.' I said, 'yeah,'" Devlin explained. "We met initially with some guards and with some supervisors."
Devlin said he told the guards and supervisors that he was unaware that they did not allow photography inside the prison and apologized. He also offered them his phone so that they could delete any pictures or video he took. But, they continued interrogating him and asked why he was in Sudan.
While Devlin was being interrogated, Michael and Reith were finally allowed to meet with their visitors. The guards allowed the three Sudanese pastors to visit with the imprisoned pastors but forced Devlin to stay.
"I tried to get in to see them. The guards said, 'No, the other three can go but not you.' So I did miss the opportunity to meet pastors Peter and Michael but the Sudanese pastors visited with them," Devlin explained.
"Then, the pastors came back and I, along with the pastors, were escorted to what I think were the two wardens of the prison. They were dressed in military uniforms. One guy had two stars on his lapel and the other guy had three stars. At that point, I was questioned further."