Trump says US missionary held in India for violating currency law a ‘hostage’

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BY ARUL LOUIS
New York, Aug 25 (IANS)
US President Donald Trump has presented an American Christian missionary arrested in India for violating foreign currency law and given due process as a “hostage” like those held in other countries like China and North Korea.
In a video shown at the Republican National Convention (RNC) on Monday night, Trump showed Bryan Nerren with five Americans who he claimed were held abroad as “hostages” and were rescued by his administration.
The others were held in Syria, Iran, Venezuela and Turkey.
It was strange for someone held for violating currency regulations similar to the US and released after judicial process to be shown as a “hostage”.
It appeared to be part of Trump’s play for the Christian fundamentalists.
The video segment featuring Nerren said that Trump had rescued Americans “wrongfully detained” and “beaten, abused, starved and left for dead” and showed Americans returning from places like China, North Korea and Iran.
After Nerren narrated his experience, Trump said: “India responded very well to my request. So we appreciate that.”
Nerren told the Daily News Journal newspaper after his return to Shelbyville, Tennessee in May that during Trump’s visit to India a deal had been made for his release if he signed some papers.
The newspaper reported that Nerren said he was detained in October when he was carrying $40,000 in cash, which he claimed he was transporting to Nepal.
There were contradictions between what he said on the video and what he had told media outlets or what had been reported by media that had been in contact with him.
The newpaper reported that Nerren said he faced prison terms three to five years, while he claimed in the video with Trump that he had initially faced 35 years and that the charges were reduced so he would face seven years.
For someone who was said to be a hostage, he told the newspaper, that judges and lawyers on his case cared about “doing the right thing at the end to get me free”/
He told Trump on the video: “I was not going to India but was going through India to Nepal.”
But Morning Star News said that Nerren was arrested at the Bagdogra airport in West Bengal while he was on his way to Sikkim with two other missionaries.
He was charged with Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) violation, while the other two pastors were let go.
Anyone bringing in over $5,000 in currency or over $10,000 in travellers cheques or similar instruments have to declare it under FEMA.
He told the newspaper that a judge had initially fined and released him after six days but he was arrested again and criminally charged by Customs authorities.
The newspaper quoted him as saying after the deal during Trump’s visit “we did a James Bond overnight flying across the country to file documents and papers with the customs commissioner”.
But the officials insisted that he had to go through a judicial process before he was finally allowed to leave the country leading to deals while he stayed in an apartment, Nerren said.
The US has strict rules on bringing in foreign currency into the country and according to the US Customs anyone bringing in more than $10,000 has to file a declaration and if they don’t, the money can be forfeited and they could face civil and criminal prosecutions.

(Arul Louis can be reached at arul.l@ians.in and followed on Twitter at @arulouis)

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