The case against four Christians detained since October 29 on trumped-up proselytism charges was dismissed February 11 in Rajbiraj, Nepal, after prosecution witnesses failed to appear in court. The judge ordered the four-three Nepali nationals and one Norwegian- to be released on February 15.
The dismissal has resulted in great jubilation among Nepal's Christian community.
"The truth for which our brothers stood firm has triumphed," said a member of the Forum for Human Concern in Nepal. The Forum was created in January to press for the release of the four and to highlight the increasing number of anti-Christian atrocities committed by extremist Hindus.
The four Christians include Trond Berg, a Norwegian national; Rev. Devi Bhattarai, a Baptist pastor; Mr. Timothy Rai, a staffer for Campus Crusade; and Mr. Prem Bahadur Rai, a local Christian businessman. All were arrested on October 29 in the border town of Rajbiraj after 15 extremists began to attack Christians holding a two-day seminar in the local Baptist church.
The ensuing fracas led to the police being called in. One witness alleged that Pastor Bhatarai was offering bribes for Hindus to convert to Christianity. The charges were fabricated and should have been thrown out. However, when the arraignment took place on November 1, the courtroom was besieged by extremist demonstrators, including many bussed over the border from India. The judge gave in to the crowd's demands and insisted the four accused Christians stay in jail and await trial.
The baseless nature of the charges was borne out by the absence of all the accusers when the trial was due to begin on Sunday, February 11. According to an eyewitness at the proceedings, "The magistrate stood in frustration waiting for ...1
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