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Arrests in Bhutan

March 2015

A pastor arrested in Bhutan has been released from prison after paying an extortionate fine, Christian charity Open Doors has reported.

Pastor Tandin Wangyal had been arrested in Dorokha village in the Samtse district of Bhutan as a result of his faith in March 2014, and was only released in January this year after paying a fine of 100,000 Ngultrum (£1100).

He was originally detained along with Pastor Mon Thapa (also known as David Lobzang) after a neighbour complained that the two had held a house church meeting in the village.

Having been invited to hold a three-day seminar for Christians, the two pastors arrived in Dorokha village in March 2014. They were arrested while carrying a sick child to a local health clinic and charged with holding a religious meeting without prior approval, showing a film without approval and collecting ‘illegal funds’.

According to Open Doors, both men were found guilty at the Dorokha Court on 10 September. Pastor Tandin was sentenced without bail to three years and eleven months in prison for collecting funds for personal gain.

Pastor Mon Thapa was given a shorter sentence of two years and four months, with a fine of 98,800 Ngultrum (£1000). After paying his fine on 12 September, Pastor Mon Thapa was released from prison.

Pastor Wangyal has returned to his wife, Nengboi, and three children in Thimphu, the capital of the small and mountainous South Asian country.

Christians are thought to make up less than 3 per cent of the population in this Buddhist-majority country. Although Bhutanese Christians are legally permitted to worship in private homes, they are not allowed to meet in a building for worship.

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Bhutan