Supporters of U.S. aid worker jailed in Sudan 'cautiously optimistic'

Supporters of a Sudanese activist say they’re “cautiously optimistic” that the permanent U.S. resident will not be found guilty on terrorism charges in Sudan, where he remains jailed and could face the death penalty.

An attorney for Rudwan Dawod, 30, concluded his defense on Tuesday and a judge requested additional time to “allow the court to study the record,” according to Kody Kness, deputy director of Sudan Sunrise, where Dawod works as a project director.

“I don’t think that anyone would put it past the judge to give Rudwan an unfair verdict or a verdict not based on actual evidence, but the case presented by the defense was very strong,” Kness told Friday. “We’re cautiously optimistic for a not guilty verdict.”

The judge in the case said he plans to issue a verdict in the case Monday, Aug. 13, Kness said.

Dawod, who was working to rebuild a Catholic cathedral in South Sudan after Sudanese forces burned it down, was arrested in Khartoum on July 3 while visiting relatives and attempting to renew his Sudanese passport.

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Tom Prichard, executive director at Sudan Sunrise, 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 on Monday. “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.”

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 her 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 late NBA star Manute 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.”