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Updates: Timo Miller

My thanks to reader "Just Me" for updating us in the comments thread below on the current outrageous situation of Mennonite missionary Timo Miller. See here, here, and here. He is apparently giving us information from the site Plainnews.org, which hosts news on Mennonite, Hutterite, and other "plain" folk worldwide. (Timo Miller is no relation either to Lisa Miller or to Pastor Ken Miller.) Timo was originally arrested in Washington, DC, in 2011 for having helped Lisa Miller obtain plane tickets to Nicaragua and for having sheltered her and helped her settle in when she first arrived in Nicaragua. He has stated explicitly that he did not know at the time that he was breaking any laws in so doing. See here for an interesting and in some ways sympathetic portrayal of him in the New York Times.

He agreed to cooperate fully with investigators in 2011, and hence at that time the federal charges against him were dropped. He was a witness at fellow Mennonite Ken Miller's trial in 2012.

Apparently having federal charges dropped, though, is just a game of cat and mouse. There is nothing long-term or binding about it, at least as it was done in Timo Miller's case, and the charges can be picked back up again at any time. For reasons that are obscure both to Timo and to his family, the federal prosecutors connected to the Buffalo, New York, trial (presumably the trial of Philip Zodhiates, who helped Lisa in the U.S.), have decided that he needs to be extradited right now, citing the old charges against him.

Timo was always willing to turn himself in and has not resisted arrest or charges in any way. Despite this, the Nicaraguan government has inexplicably cooperated with the U.S. government and Interpol (yes, this is massive overkill) to arrest him in such a way that his family at first thought he was kidnapped by some non-state entity, leaving his bicycle lying on the ground behind him. After this unnecessary cloak-and-dagger abduction, there have been various back-and-forths in which he and his family are told almost nothing and his family for a time could get no information about him. He has not (reportedly) been actively mistreated but is being held in wretched conditions in Nicaraguan prisons and is actually looking forward to being extradited to the U.S. because of the hope of better imprisonment conditions. His wife reports that his health, specifically his blood pressure, appears to be negatively affected by the prison conditions.

And this is how they are treating the guy who is cooperating, who didn't even know he was committing a crime at the time of the "crime."

Timo Miller is a husband and the father of five children. The rest of his family is in Nicaragua. His wife is (understandably) in anguish over him. They don't know if he's just going to have to testify again in the upcoming trial of someone else, if he's going to be tried himself on the old charges and put in a federal U.S. prison (as Ken Miller has been), or what else is going to happen to him. His family knows that they may not see him again for a long time. As for how the family will support itself (they sell doughnuts to help support themselves in Nicaragua), that is unknown to the outside world at this time. Perhaps the Mennonite community has a plan.

Also unknown: Whether the Nicaraguan government's sudden and surprising decision to extradite Timo Miller means that they are more likely to find and extradite Lisa and Isabella as well. My impression is that she is not presently in contact with Timo Miller's family, who originally welcomed her to Nicaragua. Lisa and Isabella "re-disappeared" within Nicaragua in 2011 when Timo Miller was arrested in Washington, DC, no doubt realizing that his testimony then would point to their location in Nicaragua. But I have little doubt that a truly motivated Nicaraguan government could find them and extradite them. It's just that Nicaragua doesn't usually do that kind of thing and isn't signatory to an international agreement requiring them to do so. But they seem to have acquired new motivation, if Timo Miller's current situation is any indication.

Meanwhile, Janet Jenkins is waiting in the wings with a civil suit against Timo Miller, Kenneth Miller, Philip Zodhiates, and Liberty University School of Law. That suit has only been put on hold while the various criminal trials of the defendants in the civil suit go forward.

The degree of determined vengeance in this case is tremendous. Federal prosecutors are operating like well-trained robots whose job is to convict, period. Janet Jenkins is obviously a woman driven by a desire for vengeance against those who dared to withhold Isabella from her or to help Lisa in any way. I doubt that her sleep is troubled by the thought that, if she had been willing to agree to short, supervised visits with Isabella years ago, Lisa and Isabella would in all probability still be living safely in the U.S., and neither of these harmless Mennonite husbands and fathers would be in prison.

We should pray for Timo Miller now along with the others tried in this outrageous case.

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