Zeitgeist of the year: Pedro Carmonte
Runners up: Roven's President and Finance Minister
Other key events this year
Kyle Langley: pro-unions?
Gov. Hope tours the south
"Pardon? There's a drought?"
Are the Burovians a spent force?
The bitter fight over Savante's millions
Gichadia: island paradise comes of age
The Moun's Front legacy
Pataki Communists refuse "dregs"
Castronovia: recog- nition or bust
ICARA's Alphalpha 300 debacle
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The Carmonte Affair
On May 11th this year, a small news article from Lendosa hit the
international news services through the LNN, the Lendosan News Network, one of
the planet's premier news services. Yet, neither LNN, nor any other news
service, let alone the Lendosan government, anticipated the international uproar
and attention that would result from the news item. Pedro Carmonte, a lecturer
in Religious Studies at the University of Asala in the Lendosan Confederation,
had been arrested for the crime of "insecularity". Lendosan law demands that
all employees of the state refrain from ANY statements that imply support,
favour or bias toward one religion or another. What is particularly draconian
about this law is that it applies to ALL employees: from the highest policy
maker to the lowliest cleaning staff.
It spread like a wildfire on the news services, with the Lendosan
government forced to defend itself against charges of religious persecution by
several nations. Even the Okarvits government, which has repeatedly shied away
from any criticism of Lendosa, which makes up 40% of Utania's export market,
made comparatively strong stat ements of "concern" about the situation.
There is no denying that the Carmonte case is the biggest, most read about
case on the planet this year.
Zeitgeist Magazine has gone to Colchisia to seek the truth of this matter,
to find the story behind the news headlines. Is Pedro Carmonte sacrificing himself
to exploit the international press to repeal a discriminatory anti-religion law?
Is the Lendosan government ruthlessly applying a law that has no real control over
a mere University lecturer? Are they heartless practitioners of legal principle
or do they share sympathy with a man being persecuted? And the Lendosan public -
what do they think of the case, and of the international furore that has resulted.
It was a mild Thursday afternoon in the equatorial Lendosa city of Asala, when Pedro CARMONTE, 44, began his day on May 2nd. He had started classes in his Comparative Religion course at the University of Asala two months before, and was pleased with the rapid progress of the students through the coursework. He'd lost one or two students, but that was nothing out of the ordinary.
That was, until members of the Lendosan Police confronted him in the underground carpark that day and arrested him. Carmonte would later learn that one of those students had complained to police about the course. While students will often complain about courses -- too much work, too little focus on this or that, or that their grade is too low -- this complaint was an accusation that Pedro Carmonte had used his lectures to promote his own Cruisian religion.
Carmonte denies that he attempted to proselytise, but does not deny that he used his own Cruisian religion as a basis for comparison for other religions. In fact, he planned the lectures from the beginning of the year this way.
However, what he did not appreciate was that the Insecularity Law prevented any state employee from speaking favourably about a religion included university lecturers. To Carmonte, the law applied to only "real" government employees. The law disagreed.
"Although Citizen Carmonte may well have identified his views as his own opinions, they were still spread and delivered by means of his official position", says Justice Administrator, Senator Reinaro DA TENIO. "Had Citizen Carmonte presented other viewpoints to his own, he would not have suffered so badly under our laws."
Carmonte faced trial, was found guilty and sentenced to ten years imprisonment for his crime.
The international reaction to the case of a university lecturer being sentenced to ten years prison for crimes that would, in many other nations, be guaranteed by religious freedom, was explosive, and unexpected. The Lendosan news broadcaster, LNN, mentioned the story in passing in a May 5th bulletin, as a filler in a slow day's news. But, it prompted a massive outpouring of outrage and contempt worldwide. Governments from Cimera to Listonia were protesting, and even Utania's pro-Lendosa government was left in disbelief.
(It should be noted that not all press or government reaction was unfavourable. The Aethelnian Labour government has recently introduced a watered-down but similar "insecularity" law. And the anti-religious, socialist governments of Armatirion and Solelhada made only supportive comments, or none. At a local level, Utania's own Liberal Party called for a similar law to be introduced in Utania, a quote sure to have embarrassed their Burovian allies. Still, the overwhelming world press opinion was one of shock and condemnation.)
If it surprised the Lendosan press, it momentarily stunned the Lendosan government, and even took the Lendosan people by surprise. But, few people on the street are listening, or are prepared to listen to the international criticism.
"I read that some other countries were complaining about it" Ricardo Verencio, a Corporate Attorney in the country's capital, told Zeitgeist Magazine. "It's none of their business, actually."
"They should keep out of our affairs. Plain and simple" Pedro Velturo told us more bluntly. Still, some are more cautiously critical. University student Maria Coralia has no objection to international criticism in principle.
"But I think it says something that it's heavily Cruisian countries like Cimera and Listonia that are complaining, not countries known for their rights record like Christiana.
Should the people of Lendosa be convinced that Citizen Carmonte should be freed,
the Senate is obligated to respond.
Senator da Tenio
"I don't think we should pay any attention." she adds.
In a Zeitgeist commissioned poll, of 1,000-plus Lendosan adults, 69% of people polled who had heard of the international reaction, a massive 89% thought it wrong that the international community expressed outrage, and 82% thought the wider world should "butt out" of Lendosan affairs. A stern rebuke. Yet, Lendosa's politicians may be less scathing.
"While some of my more nationalistic colleagues might object," Senator da Tenio, the Administrator of Justice, says, "justice is not a branch of geography, and the idea of fairness does not somehow shift at Lendosa's borders. Other nations are perfectly within their rights to comment on the matter.
However, Senator da Tenio admits that, in the end, it is only the Lendosan people who can decide.
"Ultimately, it can only be the Lendosan people who decide this matter. Should the people of Lendosa be convinced that Citizen Carmonte should be freed, the Senate is obligated to respond.
"It is perfectly acceptable for foreign nations to influence Lendosan public sentiment - we do not pretend that our citizens should not be free to listen to whatever viewpoint they wish."
The only hope for capital markets in Utania: Hope!