Christian Bookseller Jailed by Muslims
A Christian has been sentenced to one year in prison for “creating chaos” by selling and distributing Christian books and other literature near a major Muslim gathering in Dhaka, Bangladesh, according to a report by Compass News Direct (CND).
The Bangladeshi constitution provides the right for anyone to propagate their religion subject to law, but authorities and communities often objected to efforts to convert people from Islam, according to the U.S. Department of State’s 2010 International Religious Freedom report.
Imprisoned Despite Law
A magistrate court in Gazipur district handed down the sentence to Biplob Marandi, a 25-year-old tribal Christian bookseller, on Feb. 28 after he was arrested near the massive Bishwa Ijtema (World Muslim Congregation) on the banks of the Turag River near Tongi town on Jan. 21, CND said.
The family hired a Muslim lawyer for Marandi who did little for him. The Rev. Sailence Marandi, elder brother of the convicted man and pastor at Church of Nazarene International in northern Bangladesh said, “My brother did not get the chance for self-defense in court. Without opportunity for self-defense, sentencing him for one year for evangelical activities was a travesty of justice. It cannot be accepted in a democratic country.”
“Fanatic Muslims might say this impossible thing, but how can the honorable court can say it?” he said. “In the verdict copy it is written that my brother admitted his offense in the court. This case being very religiously sensitive, I suspect that his confession statement might have been taken under duress,” Rev. Marandi said.
Rev. Marandi said his brother works as a Christian bookseller to supplement his livelihood as an evangelist on a street near the event, and there were many curious pedestrians of all faiths among Muslims from around the world.
New Lawyer Seeks Justice
The family has since hired a Christian attorney, Lensen Swapon Gomes, who told Compass that he filed an appeal on Monday (March 21) as Marandi’s Christian bookseller activities activities were protected by the religious freedom provisions of the country’s constitution.
Bangladesh is the world’s third-largest Muslim-majority nation, with Muslims making up 89 percent of its population of 164.4 million, according to Operation World. Christians are less than 1 percent of the total, and Hindus 9 percent. Christian resources are not readily available in the country due to the lack of Christian bookshops, so itinerant Christian bookselling is a common practice.
Published on: Mar 26, 2011