US Mormon missionaries expelled from Guyana

AFP/September 2, 2009

Georgetown - At least 40 Mormon missionaries, mostly from the United States, were ordered to leave Guyana within 30 days, police said Wednesday.

Police Commissioner Henry Greene said the missionaries had overstayed their visas and failed to extend their missionary status with the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Guyanan President Bharrat Jagdeo met with two elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints after the arrests, but did not speak to reporters.

The deputy US ambassador to Guyana, Karen Williams, said that meetings were held at "all levels" of the Guyana government in an effort to resolve the issue.

"We've done the best that we can and moving forward I hope they'll be able to work out some other issues," Williams said.

Attorney Nigel Hughes said that he did not know why they were being kicked out.

"As far as I am aware, no specific reason has been given for their action," Hughes told reporters outside the headquarters of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) where the missionaries were being held since early Wednesday.

The Mormon church, which has been in Guyana for more than 20 years, has been supporting community agriculture.

The church also provides humanitarian relief, and in the past has collaborated with Guyana's main opposition Peoples National Congress Reform (PNCR) in providing donations to the poor.

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