07/14/2011 Bangladesh (CDN) — Police in Bangladesh have charged two Christians and their four Muslim friends with “hurting religious sensibility” just three days after they were cleared of any wrongdoing.
The accused will appear in court tomorrow to face the charges, which were filed against them three days after they were exonerated on April 10. They had been arrested on March 24 in Damurhuda, Chuadanga district, some 210 kilometers (126 miles) northwest of Dhaka, under Section 54 of the penal code, which provides a special power to police to arrest anyone on any suspicion. They were released on bail three days later.
Mannan Mridha, a pastor in the Way of Peace movement of 490 house churches in northwest Bangladesh, told Compass that the second case was filed only to stop Christian activities in the area.
“The case was also filed simply to harass the Christians,” Mridha said.
Carpas Danga camp police from the Damurhuda police station on April 13 charged the men with “hurting religious feelings” of area Muslims after a foreign doctor offered Bibles to patients at a health camp where the accused were volunteering. The accused men, including the four Muslims previously misidentified as Christians, appeared in district court on June 1.
A group of Christians under the direction of the Way of Peace movement had arranged a two-day health camp offering free treatment to poor villagers in Damurhuda earlier this year. Around 100 villagers attended the camp for free treatment on March 23, and a Japanese doctor treated them. The next day, more than 400 people were supposed to attend the health camp.
The Japanese volunteer doctor offered Christian leaflets and Bibles to the patients, telling them they were under no obligation to take the literature, sources said. Area Muslims stirred up residents against the doctor, according to police, and the angry villagers had police arrest the Christians. The foreign doctor was not named in either of the cases filed against the six nationals.
“These books seriously hurt the religious sentiments among the Muslims,” police charged in the second case. “After thorough investigation, we found it true that the accused were engaged in the activities of hurting religious sentiments.”
One of the accused, 30-year-old Christian convert Nurul Islam, told Compass that the Japanese doctor had discussed with villagers the devastation of the earthquake and the tsunami that ripped through northeastern Japan on March 11, showing some pictures of its destruction published in newspapers.