Norway Trial Court Finds Missionaries Guilty for Spreading Gospel
By Peter J. Smith
OSLO, Norway, July 14, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Two Christian missionaries, arrested by Norwegian police in May for spreading the gospel during an Oslo parade celebrating the birthday of the country’s constitution, have been found guilty by a Norway trial court.
US evangelist Larry Keefer from Tampa, Florida, and Norwegian evangelist, Petar Keseljevic were attending the May 17 national event in Oslo, celebrating the 1814 ratification of Norway’s constitution, when police arrested the Christian missionaries as they were conversing with several members of the crowd beyond the parade lines. (see http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2008/may/08052208.html)
LifeSiteNews has learned from the International Human Rights Group (IHRG) that the trial court in Oslo found both missionaries guilty for failing to obey the police. IHRG President Joel Thornton is awaiting the English translation of the ruling from the court, but spoke to LifeSiteNews about the verdict.
"The court issued a written opinion, which I am waiting on in English from the court, that the police law has to be obeyed because the police were trying to keep the peace," said Thornton. "The Norwegians have a police law that is absolute, meaning that there is no discretion when you are participating in a legitimate activity and the police ask you to leave. You must obey the police at any cost and the courts will not be moved by your right to freedom of expression or religion."
Thornton explained that the decision against Keefer and Keseljevic as it stands has serious ramifications for the rights of Christians in Europe.
"If this decision is upheld it will, in effect, mean that Articles 9, freedom of religion, and Article 10, freedom of expression, of the European Convention on Human Rights are only valid if the police in Norway approve of your speech," Thornton continued. "Otherwise they can arrest you at any time and stop your speech."
Both men face serious fines, but no jail time.
Thornton said the IHRG will begin working on the appeal to the Court of Appeals as soon as they have the English language decision later this week. They will then have 14 days to file their appeal.
IHRG has stated they are prepared to take the case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg "to protect the right of Christians to non-disruptively share their faith in public in Europe."
Royal Norwegian Embassy
90 Sparks Street, Suite 532
Phone: +1 613 238 6571
Fax: +1 613 238 2765
E-mail: [email protected]
See previous coverage by LifeSiteNews.com:
Norwegian Police Arrest Missionaries for Spreading Gospel at National Parade
Europe is beginning a definite transition away from tolerance of people’s freedom of public speech and Norway is leading the way
Watch the video documenting the activities and arrest of the Christian missionaries:
STREET PREACHERS ARRESTED IN NORWAY PART ONE
STREET PREACHERS ARRESTED IN NORWAY PART TWO