US evangelist arrested in Kochi

via Daily Pioneer published on October 16, 2011

The Kerala Police arrested US evangelist William Lee from Kochi late Friday night for indulging in religious preaching in violation of visa norms. Lee, who had come to India on a tourist visa, had gone into hiding on Wednesday night after the police tried to nab him from the venue of an evangelical programme in Kochi.

Lee was arrested from a five-star hotel in Kochi over 48 hours after he went missing from the venue of Musical Splash 2011, a religious propagation programme organized as a musical event at Jawaharlal International Stadium in Kaloor, Kochi. He had gone into hiding when the police reached the venue to ask him to leave the country immediately.

The Chief Judicial Magistrate Court at Kochi, where Lee was produced on Saturday, remanded him in custody till Tuesday. The police said in the chargesheet that the pastor had violated visa norms and that he had to be deported. Applying for bail, Lee’s counsel said that he had not violated any Indian law and that the charges imposed on him were not legally maintainable.

Lee, who had gone missing along with evangelist-musician Ron Kenoly and a woman associate, was blacklisted after Wednesday’s incident. The police had issued lookout notices for his detention to all airports in the country. The police also had been searching for the leaders of Faith Leaders Church of God, who had brought them to Kerala and had organized the event.

The police had tried to detain Lee and to deport him back to the US on the basis of Intelligence reports that he and his associates, who had come to India on tourist visas, were indulging in evangelical activities in various parts of the State.

The police had reached the stadium in Kaloor on Wednesday night on specific Intelligence report on Lee’s activities in order to ask him to leave the country immediately. But as the police arrived, Lee surreptitiously left the place. Subsequent inspection at his hotel showed that he had not returned but had not checked out either.

Intelligence officials have learned that William Lee had held musical conventions for religious propagation at Kunnamkulam in Thrissur district on October 7, 8 and 9. Like other Faith Leaders programmes, Musical Splash 2011 in Kochi was planned as a three-day event to popularize their school of Christianity through “Gospel Music Pageantry”.

Ron Kenoly and his music troupe, Mizmor Harmonic, had held such “pageantry” in Thiruvalla, Pathanamthitta in December last. There are reports that millions of rupees are flowing into India, especially Kerala, for evangelical activities. Huge sums of money have reportedly flowed in for the Faith Leaders programme in Kochi as well, it is alleged.

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