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Twin Cities Hmong Lutheran pastor released from captivity in Laos

The Rev. Naw-Karl Mua had gone to Southeast Asia to serve as a translator

A St. Paul pastor, who took leave of his Hmong ELCA congregation to serve as a translator for two European journalists traveling in Laos, has been set free after being arrested by the Laotian government. The Rev. Naw-Karl Mua, who serves Light of Life Lutheran Church, a Hmong congregation in St. Paul, was arrested in mid-May, along with the two journalists.
The Europeans, French photographer Vincent Rey-naud and Belgian reporter Thierry Falise, had gone to Laos to report on an insurgency by members of the Hmong ethnic minority in Laos. The arrest of the three was believed to be a political action taken by a government unhappy about having unduly severe treatment of a minority brought to light.
Pastor Mua left for Southeast Asia on May 12. He was due back in Minn-esota on May 28, but did not return. On June 9, his wife, Sue, was notified that the three travelers were being held in a Laotian jail.
During Mua’s confinement, his bishop, the Rev. Peter Rogness of the ELCA’s St. Paul Area Synod released a statement in which he said, “I am appalled at the recent conviction of Pastor Naw-Karl Mua by a Laotian court on the charges of obstructing police work and the illegal possession of a gun and explosive device.”
The Laotian government had charged the three of complicity in the death of a village guard, following a clash between Hmong fighters and villagers.
Mua and the two journalists denied the charges, but agreed to accept a court sentence, requiring they pay a fine and compensate the family of the dead man, in exchange for their release.
Mua and the two journalists were freed on July 9.