Saudi Arabia deported 35 Ethiopian Christians last week after incarcerating them for over seven months for praying in advance of the Christmas season in December 2011, according to Christian media outlets and NGOs.
International Christian Concern wrote on its website that “Saudi Arabia deported the last of the 35 Ethiopian Christians who were detained for holding an all-night prayer vigil.
Saudi security officials assaulted, harassed and pressured the Christians to convert to Islam during their incarceration.”
“We have arrived home safe. We believe that we are released as the result of the pressure exerted by ICC and others,” one of the Ethiopians told ICC.
“The Saudi officials don’t tolerate any other religions other than Islam. They consider non-Muslims as unbelievers. They are full of hatred towards non-Muslims.”
On December 15, Saudi authorities raided a private religious function in Jeddah, a city on the Red Sea coast in western Saudi Arabia, and arrested 35 Ethiopian Christian workers.
According to human rights groups and the US government’s Commission on International Religious Freedom, the 29 women and six men faced beatings and sexual assault.
The commission noted that “some of the men detained have alleged that they were physically abused during interrogations and the female detainees reportedly were subjected to intrusive and humiliating body cavity searches. While no formal charges have been made, the detainees reportedly were charged with ‘illicit mingling’ with the opposite sex. Saudi authorities informed sponsors of some of the detainees that their employees were being held because of illegal religious activities. The detainees also reportedly face imminent deportation.”
Since 2004, the US State Department has described Saudi Arabia as a “country of particular concern” for its repression of religious freedom.
The imprisonment of the 35 Ethiopians garnered scarce media attention.
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