Accused Bible Smuggler Allowed To Leave Morocco
MARINA SMIR, Morocco (EP) - Graham Hutt, who was arrested earlier this year for bringing Bibles into Morocco aboard his yacht, was allowed to leave with his yacht and other personal property on Oct. 6, about five months after his arrest.
Authorities seized 1,200 New Testaments and 500 Bibles from Hutt and his companions in late May. They were detained, sentenced to two months imprisonment and ordered to pay a fine of $42,000 or face a year in prison. The court also ordered the confiscation of the Bibles and religious books, along with Hutt's yacht and motorcycle (valued at $250,000 and $3,000 respectively).
The sentence was unusually high for the offense. The normal penalty for failure to pay a customs permit is usually $150-$300. In addition, since the books were to be given away rather than sold there should have been no customs charge, or a very low charge. The government insists that it is legal to bring Bibles into Morocco, which is 99 percent Muslim, but the severity of the penalty in this case was almost certainly due to the religious nature of the confiscated materials.
There were initial suspicions that the arrest was motivated by a local government official's desire for Hutt's yacht. Hutt said high officials in Rabat worked out a settlement that allowed him to keep the yacht and other property after paying a customs duty. Port police at Marina Smir turned out and applauded as Hutt's yacht left the marina.
He told Voice of the Martyrs that he believes the charges of illegal Bible importation are still pending. If the charges are not dropped, it could interfere with Hutt's travel to other countries in the Middle East. No date has been set for an appeal, and Hutt is not sure if he will pursue the matter further.
Hutt said he is "deeply grateful" for the positive outcome of the case. "I know that it has only been the persistent prayer and representation to the authorities that has resolved the situation," he said. "I have made many friends during this time amongst people I would never have met, had it not been for this experience, so I am grateful to the Lord for this too."
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