A prominent Sudanese bishop has appealed for the international community to intervene to save the lives of pastors who are facing the death sentence in a court in Sudan.
Bishop of Kadugli diocese, Andudu Adam Elnail, had to flee himself from Sudan to South Carolina in the US in 2011 after his property was torched when he refused to tell his Christian flock to endorse Sudan President Omar al-Bashir.
He called for the United Nations and the US to step in to help the four men on trial in Khartoum.
Bishop Elnail told FoxNews.com the charges were "concoted".
Pastors Hassan Abduraheem and Kuwa Shamal, on trial with Czech Christian Petr Jašek and human rights activist Abdulmonem Abdumawla face capital charges including espionage and waging war against the state. Jašek is also charged with the propagation of false news.
One charge against the pastors is that they propagated news about churches being burned down in Khartoum and bombed in the Nuba mountains, where Christians are classed as "atheists".
Bishop Elnail told Fox News: "We call for their protection and immediate release and urge that the UN, US government – including Congress – and other world communities demand the freedom of these two men of God and other prisoners."
Bishop Elnail said the two pastors are being held in solitary confinement. He said he had known Shamal, who has seven children, for many years and described him as a "humble and good man" in his mid-40s who has dedicated his life to God.
He said: "The government is not interested in the Christian religion. There is no freedom for us, we cannot build churches, we are treated as second-class citizens. We need the international community to pressure the government of Sudan to give us our freedom of religion."
The US State Department has been tracking the case and is lobbying Sudan, designated a country of "particular concern", to show greater respect for religious freedom.
"We are committed to working with countries to make tangible improvements in respect for religious freedom and continue to look for opportunities to address these issues with the government of South Sudan," a spokesperson said.
Christian Today has followed the case of the pastors and the two other accused men, and reported recently that their lives were at risk.
According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) which is campaigning on behalf of the men, the charges against the Czech man are central to the case.
Part of the case against Jašek is based on the financial aid given for the medical treatment of a young man from Darfur, Ali Omer, who was injured in a demonstration in 2013. Jašek donated $5,000 towards Omer's medical treatment, which was signed for by Abduraheem and Abdumawla. The Czech was arrested when he left Sudan and the other three arrested nine days later.
The prosecution alleges that the $5,000 Jašek donated to Omer's treatment was in reality support for rebel movements in the South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur regions, according to CSW.
Shamal was not involved in fundraising for Omer but appears to have been included because of his position in the Sudan Church of Christ.
Mervyn Thomas, chief executive of CSW, said: "The case against Rev Hassan Abduraheem, Mr Abdumawla, Rev Kuwa Shamal and Mr Petr Jašek is an example of NISS's manipulation of the criminal justice system to harass ethnic and religious minorities.
"The evidence clearly shows that Rev Abduraheem, Mr Abdumawla and Mr Jašek attempted to provide medical care for Mr Omer. As a consequence of their acts of kindness, these men have been detained in terrible conditions and are now enduring an unjust trial.
"RevKuwa Shamal, meanwhile, is being targeted simply because of his position as a senior church leader, his ethnicity and relationship to Rev Abduraheem. We urge everyone who is as concerned as we are about this grave injustice to join us in campaigning to see these men set free. CSW urges the government of Sudan to drop the charges against these men without conditions or delay."
He also called for the end of targeting religious and ethnic minorities in Sudan.
Video of a hymn-singing protest on behalf of the four men outside the courtroom in Khartoum, Sudan posted on Facebook by Youeel Ibrahim.