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Religious freedom | Pastor Keshab: Nepal

Pastor sentenced to jail over prayer

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Topic | Persecution

On 23 March 2020, Pastor Keshab received a call from a man requesting prayer for his sick wife. In response, Pastor Keshab invited the man to come to his house for prayer. When the knock at the door came later, four police officers were there to arrest him.

In November 2021, the Dolpa District Court sentenced pastor Keshab Raj Acharya, 32, for “outraging religious feelings” and “proselytizing” after he shared gospel tracts and prayed with fellow citizens. 

He appealed the ruling and was temporarily free on bail. In January 2024 the Nepali Supreme Court released an order confirming the sentence of one-year in prison. There is no other legal avenue to appeal his conviction, but his legal defense team is exploring options to have his prison sentence reduced or converted into a fine. 

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"No one should be sentenced for praying and sharing the gospel. Nepalese citizens have a fundamental right to practice and profess the religion of their choice, in accordance with international standards."

Case Summary

On 23 March 2020, pastor Keshab was arrested after offering to pray for a man’s sick wife. He was released on 8 April 2020 only to be re-arrested moments later on charges of “outraging religious feelings” and “proselytizing” because he had been distributing gospel tracts. The Dolpa District Attorney’s office filed charges on 21 May 2020 under Nepal’s Criminal Code which prohibits converting anyone from one religion to another. Pastor Keshab was denied bail on 22 May 2021, but after over a month the district judge decided to release him temporarily on bail equivalent to 2,300 EUR. Five days after the order, he was released on 3 July 2021. On 30 November 2021, the court sentenced Pastor Keshab to two years in prison and a fine of 20,000 Nepali rupees (approx. 150 EUR) for printing and distributing gospel tracts. He has appealed the ruling and is temporarily free on bail. Reflecting on almost three months of imprisonment before his sentencing, Pastor Keshab said: “It was very difficult for me. I would think of my little children and my wife, and I would cry out to the Lord in prayer. I would look up at Him in hopes that if it is His will that I should be put through this, He would get me out of this.” In partnership with local allies, ADF International is supporting Pastor Keshab’s legal defense. “The decision of the Supreme Court to decline to hear the appeal and therefore confirm the sentencing of Pastor Keshab to one year in prison is distressing. Pastor Keshab was merely helping sick people by praying to God for their well-being. The District Court’s decision went beyond the scope of the law and needs to be corrected. Together with Pastor Keshab’s local lawyer, Indra Prasad Aryal, we are exploring the possibility of having his prison sentence reduced and converted into a fine,” said Tehmina Arora.

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