By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
Listen to this BosNewsLife News report via Vatican Radio:
PRAGUE/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife)-- The Czech Republic's Foreign Ministry says a Czech Christian who was sentenced to a stiff prison term in Sudan last month has been released and returned home late Sunday, February 26, with the Czech Foreign minister. The release of Petr Jašek followed international pressure.
The Czech Republic's Foreign Ministry said Jašek, a Christian missionary and film maker, was released from a Sudanese prison where he was held since December 2015. He was freed Sunday during Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek's visit to Sudan and officials said the 52-year-old man was heading back to the Czech Republic on a plane with the minister.
Jašek was detained after filming what he described as persecution of Christians in the Islamic country, including the bombardment of civilian populated areas in the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan State, and helping local believers.
In January, he received a 20-year prison term on charges that included espionage. Czech officials had rejected the prison term as "groundless" and his supporters linked the sentence to his Christian activities. He was also ordered to pay a fine of some $15.500 in local currency for violating the Sudanese humanitarian law.
Czech Minister Zaoralek had said he was going to Sudan to help secure Jašek's release.
Yet concerns remain over the plight of those staying behind, including a local pastor and a Christian activist who received nearly a dozen years jail each on what critics view as trumpted up charges that included espionage for helping Jasek, allegedly inciting strife among communities and what Sudanese officials described as "spreading rumours undermining the state's authority.
The lawyers of Pastor Hassan Abdel Rahim and activist Abdel-Moneim Abdel-Mawla have appealed against these sentences.
Advocacy group Middle East Concern, which closely monitored the case, told BosNewsLife Radio in a statement that local Christians have appealed for prayers "for wisdom for their lawyers", a "fair appeal process" and that the two men will be acquitted soon.
In published remarks Christians also urged prayers that released missionary Jašek and his family will know in their words "the Lord's restoration, peace and joy as they adapt to his new freedom".
They also urged prayers for an end to what they describe as "the increasing pressure against churches and other religious minorities in Sudan, and that Christians will know the peace of the Lord".
And, Sudanese Christians told activists that they pray that "all officials" involved in the case "will be touched by God's love and will change their ways."
Last year, the European Parliament also urged the Sudanese government to release all rights activists, and respect freedom of religion.