World News

Nicaragua penalizes eleven pastors on ‘sham charges’ of money laundering

The pastors were charged right after Mountain Gateway ministry held a sequence of massive evangelistic campaigns that attracted more than a million people in various cities of Nicaragua.

The accusations refer to an alleged money laundering network that manoeuvred through wire transfers from the U.S. to Nicaragua. Prosecutors also charged three U.S. citizens with money laundering on the 17th of January. Attorneys claim that these people were part of a network that used two Christian non-profit organizations to cover up the money laundering. They also insist that John Britton Hancock, Jacob Britton Hancock and Casandra Mae Hancock set up a subsidiary of Mountain Gateway Ministry in Nicaragua to receive wire transfers from the U.S.

The organization’s lawyers have condemned this as a case of religious and political persecution and have requested mediation from international human rights organizations and the U.S. State Department. The ministry pointed out that the accused pastors were not allowed to be physically present in court during one hearing, only via video conference.

Once the verdict was passed, the Christian legal defence organization ADF International declared that it would take the case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. They released a statement: “ADF International is supporting Mountain Gateway’s case and has filed a request for precautionary measures with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on behalf of those fraudulently convicted. ADF International has asked the Commission to demand that Nicaragua ensure the right to health, life, and physical integrity of the pastors during their stay in prison, while the proceedings are ongoing.”

Steve Lisby, spokesperson of Mountain Gateway stated: “We believe the basis of the charges are not correct. Everything that we’ve been required to do by the Nicaraguan government in the manner of managing money, we’ve done that, and we have the documentation of that. We came to Nicaragua ’cause we love the people and because we want to share with them Jesus.”

According to Kristina Hjelkrem, legal counsel for ADF International: “No one is safe from religious persecution in Nicaragua, and it is devastating to see the sham charges, trial and conviction of these pastors and ministry leaders who were simply sharing their faith with and serving the citizens of Nicaragua”.


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