1/13/2012 Laos (BNL) - Seven Christian leaders who were detained and tortured for nearly a month in southern Laos have been released, but concerns remain about "the confiscation" of church buildings, an official assisting them told BosNewsLife Friday, January 13.
"Almost one month after their arrest and detention in Boukham village [in the] Ad-Sapathong district [of] Savannakhet province, the seven Christian leaders were released unconditionally", said Sirikoon Prasertsee, director of the Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF).
He told BosNewsLife that the release was "unconditionally" amid "prayers and advocacy efforts."
Prasertsee, who has close knowledge about the situation, said earlier that the village authorities claimed that the detained Christians "violated the village’s 'hiit'," the local traditional customs and spirit beliefs, because of their Christian faith practices.
He said they were being restrained in wooden stocks, commonly used in Lao prisons and detention centers, sometimes combined with exposure to red fire ants, as a form of torture.
The official explained that authorities used this method to pressure them to admit to the charges and to pay fines of several times the average monthly wage of rougly $40.
Pastors Sompong and Ma of the Boukham church were fined some $250 in local currency, and forced to handover one cow, a value of $200, the HRWLRF said.
Pastors Wanta and Oun of the nearby Liansai church, were reportedly fined $125 and one cow. The same sentences were given to Pastors Kaithong and Kai of the Saisomboon church and Pastor Puphet of the Donpalai church, rights investigators said. In Laos people often use only one name.