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3/28/2011 Bangladesh (AllHeadlingNews) – A Christian man has been sentenced to one year in prison after losing an appeal on charges of “creating chaos” by selling and distributing Christian books and religious booklets near an annual Muslim congregation at the outskirts of the capital Dhaka.
A magistrate court in the town of Gazipur north of the capital sentenced Biplob Marandi, a 25-year-old ethnic Christian convert on Feb. 28, after he was arrested on Jan. 21 near the gigantic Bishwa Ijtema (World Muslim Congregation of Sufis) on the banks of the Turag River.
Marandi’s lawyer appealed the decision on Monday, saying the defendant’s religious activities were protected by the religious freedom provisions of the Bangladesh constitution.
Every year, several million Sufi Muslims take part in Bishwa Ijtema to pray and listen to Islamic theologians from around the world. Thousands of foreigners from more than 100 countries attend the event, but most of the worshippers are from upcountry. Bangladesh equates the annual event with the Hajj, the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
The court ruled on Monday that Marandi was sentenced according to Section 296 of Bangladesh penal code 1860 for “creating chaos at a religious gathering,” an archaic law that dates back to British colonial days.
The Bangladeshi constitution provides the right for anyone to propagate their religion subject to law, but authorities and communities often object to efforts to convert people from Islam, according to the U.S. Department of State’s 2010 International Religious Freedom report.
Marandi admitted in the court to distributing Christian booklets. He said he had no altercation with anyone and argued it was not a crime in Bangladesh’s apparently secular society. He told the court that he had mainly wanted to propagate his religion, Christianity, writes, a global watchdog on persecution against Christians.