Among the 2,000 or so anti-government protestors in Sudan who reportedly have been detained in the past few weeks, the case of Rudwan Dawod has become particularly serious.
Dawod, a Sudanese citizen with permanent residency in the U.S., was arrested on July 3 and faces terrorism charges that could be punishable by death.
Rudwan Dawod had been visiting his family in Sudan while waiting to start work on a volunteer project in South Sudan. His American wife, Nancy Dawod, said one of her husband’s friends called her immediately at their home in the western U.S. state of Oregon.
Nancy Dawod said after her husband was arrested, two cars of armed men went to his family’s home in Khartoum and arrested his father, brother, and nine other adults in the household and nearby outside.
Most have been released, but Dawod remains in custody.
“They tried to get him to confess he was a member of the CIA," said his wife. "Of course he isn’t, and has never has been involved in any arms movement or anything of that sort.”
Nancy Dawod and others fear her husband has been severely beaten. At his first court appearance on July 5, witnesses said he could barely walk, and that the trial had to be rescheduled because he was too injured to talk.
Nancy Dawod said that two days later her husband appeared in court again.
“The good thing was that Rudwan had been moved from the ghost house or torturing space, to a regular police station where he’d be closer to his family and friends and would be treated better,” she said.
But, according to a journalist for French newspapers and TV who is in touch with Dawod’s lawyers, the case against him has taken a turn for the worse.
“What happened to him is absolutely unbelievable," said Caroline Dumay who was in Sudan for ten days covering the protests. "Now we’ve got the charge. He has twelve charges, and one of them is terrorism. They say that he wanted to bomb some markets. Terrorism. This is probably the highest charge anybody can get. You risk the death penalty for that.”
Dumay said while the protests in Khartoum are getting bigger – and the protesters are getting bolder – government security forces are doing everything they can to squelch popular opposition.
“The security forces beat people with long sticks on the back, and on the feet," Dumay said. "People do explain [to] you what’s happening. It’s obviously very difficult to capture it on camera.”
Back in the U.S., Nancy Dawod is up before dawn on most days, waiting for more news of her husband. She is pregnant with their first child, and she said suggestions that her husband is a terrorist are ridiculous.
“The front page of some of their Khartoum papers were saying that I taught him martial arts and we’re connected with the CIA," she said. "My best kick was from high school cheerleading!”
She called the truth about their lives much simpler. She works at a local bank; he is a student. They met in 2009 while helping to build a school in Sudan. She said Dawod’s first trip out of Sudan came when he traveled to Egypt for a visa to go to the U.S. to marry her almost two years ago. She also pointed out that Dawod didn’t know some of the people arrested with him.
“I believe strongly that they should be released, that they will be. Because there is nothing against them, they haven’t done anything wrong. That’s just the hope that I have to hold on to,” she said.
Both Nancy Dawod and journalist Caroline Dumay believe Dawod was targeted because of his ties to the U.S.
The U.S. State Department has condemned the recent arrests and detentions in Sudan and acknowledged it is aware of Dawod’s particular case.
The Sudanese Embassy did not respond to a request for comment.