(Asia News) – Vietnamese authorities, with the support of the media, have launched a new , violent attack against the Vinh diocese and Msgr . Paul Nguyen Thai Hop, “guilty” of asking for the release of two parishioners imprisoned for months without motive. In a 10-minute report broadcast Sept. 15 by state television, harsh accusations were made against the prelate of “lying , breaking the law on purpose and inciting to revolt ” against Hanoi. The Catholics are accused of having “artfully fabricated” a legal issue, authorities say, to transform it into a case of “religious persecution .” And the smear campaign was followed by threats against the Catholic community of My Yen and Nghe An, with the promise of “new arrests” if the protests continued .
Select stories of religious rights violations
(Fides News Agency) Dar es Salaam — A Catholic priest, Fr. Anselmo Mwanga’mba, was attacked with acid by unknown assailants which caused him serious injury, on the island of Zanzibar , on September 13. “The acid hit him in the face, arms and chest. Fr. Anselmo was admitted to the National Hospital in Dar Es Salaam where I am going to meet him”, said Mgr. Augustine Shao Bishop of Zanzibar, reached by telephone by Fides Agency.Fr. Mwanga’mba was assaulted by a group of men who threw acid on him in the afternoon of 13 September in the island’s capital, Stone Town, while he was coming out from an Internet coffee shop.
(Foxnews.com) An Iranian court rejected an appeal from Saeed Abedini, the American Christian pastor held in Iran for his Christian faith, and refused to reduce the eight-year prison term his supporters believe is tantamount to a death sentence, according to his family and lawyers.
Abedini, 33, an American citizen who lives in Boise, Idaho, with his wife and two children, has been held in Iran’s Evin Prison since September, following his arrest on a bus. His supporters say he has been beaten and tortured in the prison, and that he was only in Iran to try to start a secular orphanage.
By Nina Shea (National Review Online) — On June 23, Catholic Syrian priest Fr. François Murad was murdered in Idlib by rebel militias. How he was killed is not yet known and his superiors “vigorously deny” that he was a victim of beheading, as some news sources are claiming. It is apparent, however, that he was a victim of the shadow war against Christians that is being fought by jihadists alongside the larger Syrian conflict. This is a religious cleansing that has been all but ignored by our policymakers, as they strengthen support for the rebellion.
(Forum 18 News Service) Raids and fines against Baptists in Belarus who meet for worship without state permission have re-started, Forum 18 News Service notes. After separate raids on Sunday worship services at both congregations of the Council of Churches Baptists in the south-eastern town of Gomel, three local leaders have been fined. Pastor Nikolai Varushin was fined about one month’s average local wages, and Pastor Pyotr Yashchenko and Valentin Shchedrenok were fined much smaller amounts. These are the first such raids and fines in almost a year.
(Forum 18 News Service) Sharofat Allamova, a Protestant from Urgench in north-western Uzbekistan, has been given one and half years of corrective labour, after being convicted under criminal charges brought for the “illegal production, storage, import or distribution of religious literature”. The judge in the case, Makhmud Makhmudov, refused to talk to Forum 18 News Service. Allamova will be placed in a low-paid state job, her salary being further reduced by having to pay 20 per cent of it to the state during her sentence. She will only be permitted to travel within Uzbekistan with written state permission, and is banned from leaving the country. It has been stated that the NSS secret police compelled witnesses to make false statements against Allamova. Separately, fines have been imposed on people in the capital Tashkent for meeting in a private home and having Christian literature, and for carrying a personal Bible and New Testament. Baptists have noted that the latter conviction is illegal in Uzbek law.
BEIRUT (The Daily Star): A Saudi court convicted a Lebanese man for “evangelism” for encouraging a Saudi woman to convert to Christianity and helping her leave the country, local press reported over the weekend. A court in Khobar sentenced the man to six years in prison and 300 lashes, while another man convicted in the same case, a Saudi, was given two years in prison and 200 lashes. Both are planning to appeal. Under Saudi law, any form of proselytization is illegal, and Muslims who convert to another religion must be sentenced to death.
CAIRO (AP in Huffington Post) — An Egyptian Foreign Ministry official says a man suspected of trying to spread Christianity in Libya has died in prison there. The diplomat says Ezzat Atallah, who suffered from diabetes and heart ailments, likely died of natural causes. He spoke anonymously Sunday in line with regulations. Atallah was among five Evangelical Christian Egyptians detained in Libya for allegedly proselytizing in the predominantly Muslim nation.
Washington Post (blog by Jordan Sekulow and Matthew Clark) — It is unclear how long the sham trial against Pastor Saeed Abedini continued. What is clear, however, is that Iran and Judge Pir-Abassi, one of Iran’s infamous “hanging judges” who conducted the trial, have engaged in an attempt to spread lies and disinformation about the case, while conducting the trial in secret. Iranian officials repeatedly issued contradictory statements – promising that Pastor Saeed would be released on bail – only to repeatedly reject those bail requests. Pastor Saeed’s wife Naghmeh, whom we at the ACLJ represent, explained: “This has been a repeated promise by the Iranian regime since Saeed was first thrown in prison. We have presented bail. After the Judge told Saeed’s lawyer that bail was back on the table, the family in Tehran ran around in circles today to make sure Saeed was let out on bail. But again the bail officer rejected bail. This is a game to silence the international media.”
(Fox News) Supporters of an Egyptian woman sentenced with her seven children to 15 years in prison for converting to Christianity say the U.S. government must do more to stick up for her and other religious minorities in the Middle East. Nadia Mohamed Ali and her children drew the shocking sentence this month from a judge in Beni Suef, a city of 200,000 located about 75 miles south of Cairo. Ali, who was raised a Christian and converted to marry her Muslim husband, sought to return to her spiritual roots when he died. But the Egyptian government zeroed in on her effort to have her and her children’s national ID cards altered to mark the conversion.