Two Christians, including one pastor, who were imprisoned in Sudan since 2015 have been released by a presidential pardon on Thursday.

Rev. Hassan Abdelrahim Tawor of the Sudanese Church of Christ, and Abdulmonem Abdumawla from Darfur were both serving a 12-year sentence for “inciting hatred” among religious groups, espionage, disseminating false information about the government, and helping a Czech missionary named Petr Jasek, who was imprisoned and sentenced to life in prison prior. Jasek was released from prison on presidential pardon in February.

They were also suspected of having ties to rebel groups in Sudan, as many members of the Sudanese Church of Christ (SCOC) have ties in an area where there is currently an insurgency. Abdumawla also had been raising funds to help provide medical treatments for a friend who had suffered wounds during a protest, Morning Star News reports.

Pastor Tawor’s wife expressed gratitude for her husband’s release.

“We thank God for his release, that is all I can really say for now,” she told Morning Star News.

Advocates from human rights groups also celebrated the two Christians’ release, but also noted the need for a complete end to the human rights violations in the country.

“We celebrate Sudan’s decision to pardon Reverend Hassan Abduraheem Tawor and Abdulmonem Abdumawla from their wrongful prison sentences; however, we cannot overlook the eroding state of religious rights in Sudan as their government overtly oppresses Christianity by demolishing church properties and imprisoning Christians,” said Daniel Harris, International Christian Concern’s regional manager.

“We strongly encourage Sudan to recognize the right to religious freedom that Christians have and to work to protect rather than suppress those freedoms,” Harris added.

Mervyn Thomas, the chief executive for Christian Solidarity Worldwide, said that the two Christians’ incident highlights the group’s “profound concerns regarding the rule of law in Sudan and the politicization of the criminal justice system by the National Intelligence and Security Services, which pursued the case against them.”

Just days before their release, the Sudanese government destroyed the very church at which Tawor had been serving, called the Sudanese Church of Christ in Soba al Arabi. The church was also the last church standing in the region, according to the ICC. The Sudanese government expressed it plans to continue closing the doors of more churches.

Other well-known cases of Christians being imprisoned in Sudan include those of Meriam Ibrahim, the Christian mother who refused to convert to Islam, and Pastors Michael Yat and Peter Yen, who were released after more than seven months in prison.

"It's very good news, and I am sure people rejoicing this moment as they did when they heard about my released [sic], I am so thankful for the gift of love and prayers,” Ibrahim told ICC.