Pressure grows in Fiji over persecution of Methodist leaders

By staff writers
November 10, 2009

A lawyer representing nine Methodist Church leaders in Fiji has attended a court hearing today (10 November) to argue that the charges against them should be dropped as there is no case to answer.

The charges are largely thought to have been brought in response to Methodist criticism of the military regime's abuses of human rights.

The nine Methodists, including the Church's President and General Secretary, have pleaded not guilty to charges of breaching Public Emergency Regulations. They are appealing against their bail conditions, which prohibit them from speaking in public or taking part in church meetings.

The Methodist Church includes about a third of Fiji's population, making it the largest religious organisation in the country. Earlier this year, the military government of Commodore Bainimarama forced the Church to cancel its annual conference.

“We are very concerned for our sister Church in Fiji,” said David Gamble, President of the British Methodist Conference, “This situation threatens to consume so much of their time, energy and finance. Strict bail conditions have robbed the Church of its leaders and we hope to seek a way forward that will enable the Church to continue to worship and serve its communities”.

Gamble will meet with the UK Foreign Office minister, Chris Bryant, tomorrow (11 November) to discuss the issue.

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