Pastor Keshav Raj Acharya of the Abundant Harvest Church in Pokhara, Nepal, was sentenced to two years in prison and a fine of 20,000 rupees (approximately GBP £124) by the Dolpa District Court on 30 November.
The pastor had been found guilty of proselytisation by the same court on 22 November, upon which he had been immediately arrested and placed in prison. On 24 November, Pastor Keshav’s lawyer filed a habeas corpus application to Nepal’s Supreme Court, requesting that it direct the district court and the district attorney to give written clarification as to why Pastor Keshav was immediately sent to prison in violation of the rules of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC).
On 29 November, the day before the pastor was sentenced, the Dolpa District Court provided a last-minute written clarification which claimed that they were following the criminal procedure rules. The Supreme Court will now convene on 1 December to assess whether the pastor’s treatment was fair.
Pastor Keshav was first arrested by the Kaski District Police on 23 March 2020 after a video of him saying that COVID-19 could be healed through Christian prayer was uploaded on YouTube on 22 February. The pastor has denied uploading the video. He was finally released on bail from the Dolpa prison on 30 June 2020.
CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: “CSW is deeply disappointed by the conviction and harsh punishment imposed upon Pastor Keshav Raj Acharya, and we continue to assert that the charges against him are unjust. The fact that the pastor was immediately arrested after he was found guilty, in violation of the Criminal Procedure Code, highlights the Nepalese authorities’ disregard for due process and legal procedure, and we urge the Supreme Court to condemn this unfair treatment of the pastor when they convene tomorrow. We continue to call for Pastor Keshav’s full acquittal and immediate and unconditional release.”