He had hoped to rebuild a Catholic cathedral after Sudanese forces burned it down, but now, as his pregnant wife watches helplessly from their home in Oregon, Rudwan Dawod is fighting for his life in Khartoum.
The Sudanese activist and permanent U.S. resident could be sentenced to death as early as Tuesday on terrorism charges, accusations his supporters say are trumped up to discourage non-violent protesters like Dawod from speaking out against the government. Dawod, who worked as a project director for Sudan Sunrise, late NBA star Manute Bol's non-profit organization, was arrested in Khartoum on July 3 while visiting relatives and attempting to renew his Sudanese passport. Tom Prichard, the organization’s executive director, said Dawod was taken into custody while participating in a peaceful protest against the ongoing violence in the region and the Sudanese government’s austerity policies.
“They have picked him out as a way to discredit the youth movement,” Prichard told FoxNews.com. “They’re saying this guy comes from the United States, he’s part of the CIA. It’s all part of a very strategic plan to make people afraid of the non-violent demonstrators and they’re hanging it on Rudwan. And they’ve actually picked an amazing humanitarian to try and discredit the movement.”
"His message is really always peaceful. My hope is that he will be here before our little girl Sudan is born."
- Nancy Williams Dawod, wife
The protest, Prichard said, was organized by Girifna –— translated as “We’re Fed Up” — a non-violent youth protest movement in the nation that seeks an end to the brutality by the Sudanese government.
Dawod — who faces charges of terrorism and criminal organization, which can carry the death penalty — met his wife Nancy Williams Dawod while the two were working as volunteers at Sudan Sunrise in 2009. They later married, and the Oregon couple is now expecting their first child, whom they will name Sudan, in September.
Williams Dawod, of Springfield, Ore., told FoxNews.com her 30-year-old husband’s mantra has always been one of peace.
“He’s run a number of humanitarian projects in South Sudan and helped organize Muslims to rebuild a Catholic church in protest of a recent church burning in Khartoum,” she said Monday. “His message is really always peaceful. My hope is that he will be here before our little girl Sudan is born. We just want him back home safely.”
After meeting Bol, Dawod, a native Darfurian, became actively involved in non-violent protest and humanitarian causes, including the construction of Manute Bol School in Turalei. (Bol, 47, died in 2010 from a combination of kidney failure and Stevens-Johnson syndrome.)
“He’s someone who dreams of a better future, a kind and gracious man,” Prichard said. “He’s someone who is very focused on the suffering of other people. I’ve seen him just weep at times at the suffering of other people.”
A judge presiding over Dawod’s case characterized Girifna as a “terrorist organization,” sources close to the matter told Prichard, during court proceedings on Sunday. Dawod’s attorneys are expected to finish presenting their case on Tuesday, he said.
“Tomorrow, he could be sentenced to death,” Prichard said. “Or, he could be acquitted — we just don’t know.”