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World Church Leaders Call for Second Day of Prayer for Wrongly Imprisoned Pastor
Story by ANN Staff
The government of Togo has imprisoned Antonio Monteiro, an Adventist pastor, without a trial or evidence of his involvement in a crime, for nearly 500 days.
Seventh-day Adventist world church leaders are asking Columbia Union Conference members to join tens of thousands of Adventist congregations in a day of prayer Sabbath, July 27. They will be praying for the immediate release of a pastor wrongly imprisoned and without trial in the West African country of Togo. July 27 marks day 500 of the ordeal. This is the second day of prayer that the world church has spearheaded for the pastor, the first being December 1, 2012.
Pastor Antonio Monteiro, a native of Cape Verde, worked as a department director at the denomination’s Sahel Union Mission in Lome, Togo, since 2009. His arrest came nearly a year after the May 2011 killings of a dozen young women, whose blood and sexual organs were removed. Togo is home to one of the world’s largest bases of Voodoo, which includes blood and body parts in ceremonies.
Despite no evidence whatsoever of his involvement, Monteiro, was imprisoned on March 15, 2012, and has still not received a trial. Five attempted appeals by his lawyer, the Adventist world church and several foreign diplomats have failed to set him free. Government officials have made promises to church leaders and lawyers, but have not followed through.
Police also detained four others in connection with the case, including Monteiro’s accuser, and a Muslim who voluntarily went to police testifying that Monteiro’s accuser was a liar.
Monteiro’s only accuser has been declared mentally unstable and a “pathological liar” by a court medical exam. He has since recanted his accusation and declared that police forced him under duress to offer names of people he knew.
“To say that Monteiro is innocent goes without saying,” said John Graz, director of the Adventist world church’s department of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty. “The accusation against Monteiro is that he, as an Adventist pastor, conspired to have these women killed to use their blood in a religious ceremony. It’s an absolutely unbelievable and bizarre charge.”
Local newspapers have called for the release of Monteiro and others who are held without a trial—a violation of Togo’s constitution—which guarantees a right to a trial.
The Adventist News Network on July 18 released a four-part series of articles detailing the case. The series—which details the arrest, conversations with police, and prison conditions—is based on interviews with sources involved in the situation, a statement by Monteiro, emails, newspaper reports, police records and court documents. A spokesman for Togo’s Ministry of Justice declined to comment for the series.
To get your church involved in this day of prayer for Monteiro or to sign a petition for his release, visit pray4togo.com.
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