CAP Liberté de Conscience has joined 24 other members of the International Religious Freedom Roundtable in signing an open letter to the Attorney General of Nepal calling for the immediate dropping of all charges against Christian Pastor Keshav Raj Acharya. The letter was sent to the Attorney General of Nepal on 19 July and has received no response thus far.
We, the undersigned, are a group of individuals and organizations who collectively strive to promote freedom of religion or belief and human rights around the world. We are writing as we are concerned by the Nepali authorities’ treatment and arbitrary arrest and detention of Pastor Acharya. We understand and respect that Nepal – like many countries – is having to deal with the struggle of the spread of the novel Coronavirus. As a result, many countries around the world have had to take several extreme measures. These measures however, should not extend to infringe upon fundamental human rights.
The UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief noted that, “The pandemic has
caused a flare-up in existing religious intolerance in many countries.” The UN High Commissioner Bachelet also recently released a statement expressing alarm at the clampdown of freedom of expression in Asia during COVID-19 with a disregard in upholding the international
principles of “legality, necessity, proportionality” and serving a legitimate public health objective and choosing the “least intrusive” approach required.
We regret to see this being the case regarding the arbitrary arrest and detention of Pastor Acharya following a statement to his congregation shown on YouTube:
– On 23 March, the Kaski District Police arrested Pastor Keshav Acharya from his home. No arrest warrant was presented to him at the time of arrest until the next day. The arrest warrant accused the pastor of an offence against Public Peace by disseminating false information.
– Pastor Acharya who was held in detention for 16 days, was denied access to meet his family. On April 8 at Kaski District Administration Office, the police accused Pastor Acharya for disseminating false information by making a statement saying “Jesus can cure Corona” and praying for the stop of the Coronavirus in Jesus’ name.3
– On April 8 Pastor Acharya was given bail at 5000 Nepali Rupees. Although, he paid the sum, he was not released.
– A second arrest warrant was handed down to Keshav on 9 April 2020, with a new charge against him for committing an offence relating to religion. The police kept him
incarcerated as the case was “under investigation.”
– On 16 April another charge sheet was filed against the Pastor Acharya accusing him of proselytisation by disseminating alleged false information, an offence under Section 158 (1) and (2) of Muluki Criminal Code Act 2074. The Kaski District Court issued an order on 19 April 2020 asking for 500,000 Nepalese rupees in bail. According to a lawyer dealing with the case this amount was, “disproportionate to the penalties” under both Section 158 (prohibition of proselytization) and Section 156 (outraging religious feeling) of the Criminal code combined.
– Despite paying the exorbitant bail on 13 May 2020, the police rearrested Pastor Acharya from the premises of the Court. A third arrest warrant was handed down to Keshav