08/03/2012 02:06 pm ET Updated Aug 03, 2012

Rudwan Dawod, Activist Detained In Sudan After Nonviolent Protest Could Face Death Penalty

A Lane Community College student could face Sudan's death penalty for his participation in a protest calling for peace in his homeland of Darfur, according to United Press International.

Rudwan Dawod flew to Sudan to visit family and renew his Sudanese passport, according to John Zogby, who is a chairman for the NGO Dawod runs and a blogger for HuffPost. Dawod traveled from his home in Springfield, Ore. where his American wife, Nancy, is pregnant with the couple's first child.

Last month, Dawod was knocked unconscious and later arrested during a peaceful student protest in Sudan. Members of Congress, Lane school officials, press members and other activists call for his release. Meanwhile, Dawod was reportedly tortured and faces charges of "criminal organization and terrorism."

In March, 2009, the ICC indicted Sudanese president Omar al Bashir on charges of directing a campaign of mass murder, rape and pillage against Darfur's civilians. Most recently, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee to camps from northern to southern Sudan, the international community discusses the often violent military strategies used by the al Bashir's regime.

Dawod is a project director for Sudan Sunrise, an NGO that advocates for peace in Sudan and South Sudan, according to its website.

According to a New York Times blog post by Zogby, Dawod is reportedly one of thousands strategically imprisoned in Sudan since June in a regime effort to intimidate individuals protesting government activities.

Zogby details the dire circumstances facing Dawod since the protest and detailed Dawod's court testimony for HuffPost.

The protest was organized by Girifna, translated as "We're Fed Up," a non-violent youth movement in Sudan calling for the end of injustice and brutality by the Sudanese government. Girifna, like other student-led Arab Spring movements in the region, uses social media to organize and spread its message of human rights and democracy.

Rudwan faces charges of terrorism and criminal organization by a government led by Omar al-Bashir, a war criminal indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for genocide in Darfur. Rudwan, a Darfurian, testified in court this week that while detained, Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Forces (NISS) threatened him and others with rape. The NISS falsely accused Rudwan of being a CIA spy, converting to Christianity (though he is a devout Muslim), and violently condemned his reconciliation work in South Sudan.

"...I think it's just important that when someone is detained in this way that we do everything we can to raise awareness and see what can be done to bring him home," LCC President Mary Spilde told Northwest Public Radio.

In a statement to ABC, the Sudanese Embassy, which would not address Dawod's particular situation, said the protests are often a "delicate process of facilitating self-expression and maintaining public order on which some opportunists capitalize to inspire violence and chaos or smear Sudan’s image."

The statement went on to say that individuals arrested during the protests would "most certainly receive a fair and just trial." Zogby reportedly said sources who saw Dawod come before a judge heard the judge say "Girifna is an organization that terrorizes the general public and aims to oppose authority with criminal force." Zogby argues this reveals the judge's bias.

Dawod was not studying when detained. College students, however, were encouraged to avoid protests. Last November, three American college students were arrested outside of Tahrir Square in Egypt. They were released back to the U.S. but only after days of reportedly "being struck, forced to lie for hours in the dark and being threatened by guns."



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