Christians in Bhutan Running Out of Time to Fight 3.5-Year Prison Sentence

June 16, 2006

WASHINGTON, June 16 /Christian Newswire/ — The Washington-DC based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC)

http://www.persecution.org learned earlier in the year that two Christian men in Bhutan were arrested for showing the “Jesus” film in a Buddhist home. Recently, they were given 10 days to appeal to the courts for bail to avoid serving 3.5 and 3-year-long prison sentences for showing the “Jesus” film in a Buddhist home.

We previously had been asked to keep silent on their case until appeals were exhausted. These Christians are now asking that their story be publicized to bring international pressure on the government of Bhutan to grant their release.

These two men, who were government workers, are “Benjamin” (Budhu Mani Dungana) and “John” (Purna Bahadhur Tamang). They were arrested on January 7, 2006, in the small town of Paro while they were on their way to “preach the word of God” to a small group of people. While the Chief Judge for the district court of Paro did not consider the case serious enough to keep the men in prison, it was moved to the Crime and Investigation Department of the Royal Bhutan Police in Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital. Lt. Col. Kipchu, head of the Crime and Investigation Department, is known to be violently opposed to Christianity, and has dragged the two men from Paro to Thimphu and back again multiple times and imprisoned them under wretched conditions.

Benjamin, who is married and has three children, worked as a General Nurse Midwife (GNM) at Jigme Dorji Wangchuk national referral hospital. John, who is married with one child, was an Auditor at the Royal Audit Authority. They were given 10 days to appeal for bail and fight the case with the help of a prominent lawyer. However, as one source from Bhutan said, “In Bhutan the government is always right, we are always wrong. So there is very little chance of winning the case unless there is intervention from [on] high.”

ICC urges all concerned Christians to contact the government officials listed below and politely ask them to release Benjamin and John from prison. Please do not be forceful or belligerent as such attitudes may cause the government of Bhutan to harden its stance towards these prisoners. Most Bhutanese will be able to understand and speak English.

Secretary to His Majesty the King of Bhutan
Dasho Pema Wangchen
Phone: +975-2-322962
Fax: +975-2-323232

Chief Justice of Royal Court of Justice
Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye
Phone: +975-2-322613
Fax: +975-2-322921

Prime Minister of Bhutan
Lyonpo Sangay Ngedup
Email: ngedup@druknet.bt
Phone: +975-2-322129
Fax: +975-2-323153

Minister of Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs
Lyonpo Jigme Y. Thinley
Phone: +975-2-322643
Fax: +975-2-322214

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