Christian Prisoners Told To Confess To Trumped Up Arms Charges
By Michael Ireland
Chief Correspondent, ASSIST News Service
LAOS (ANS - August 25, 2003) -- A group of 12 Christians in Laos are under extreme pressure to abandon their faith while being held in prison, according to a report from Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
The 12 were in a group of 21 Christians from the Bru minority tribe living in Muang Nong in Savannakhet Province in the south of Laos who were arrested and imprisoned in May 2003 for refusing to renounce their faith. Nine of them have now been released, but the 12 leaders remain in detention.
The authorities have used a number of means to pressure these Christians to abandon their faith and cover up the religious grounds for their punishment.
Firstly they pressured the believers to confess to charges that they did not have proper permission from the local authorities to move their families to another village and to not mention that they were charged on religious grounds.
It is then reported that the authorities tried to get the believers to hold guns in their hands so that they could frame arms charges against them to cover up the real nature of the persecution. As the leaders refused to comply, they were not released.
Thirdly, the Muang Nong district police chief and district administrative head told the Christians they would be released if they signed affidavits stating they would no longer follow Christ or worship Him. However, the 12 rejected the proposal and therefore remain in prison.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide is calling on supporters to write to their MPs and/or MEPs, or Members of Congress to get them to put pressure on the Laotian authorities to stop persecuting Christians for their faith.
CSW has welcomed recent releases of Christians from prison, but is concerned that improvements in religious freedom have not been implemented uniformly across the country.
Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of CSW, said: "We are very disturbed about the appalling pressure that these believers and their families are being put under to renounce their faith. While we welcome the positive steps Laos has made in improving religious freedom, we are deeply concerned by the ongoing occurrence of such serious abuses. We urge the local and national authorities to ensure full freedom for all believers in all areas."