Christian to be Deported from Saudi Arabia after Months in Prison

Friday, August 3, 2001

Indian Christian, Prabhu Isaac, is due to be deported from Jiddah tonight after spending more than six months in Saudi prisons in connection with his Christian faith.

A spokesman at the Indian Consulate in Jiddah told CSW earlier today that Mr Isaac was booked on a flight to India tonight.

Mr Isaac has already been refused exit at the airport twice this month. On January 17, the airport computer registered his wife as still being in Saudi Arabia and on January 27, it was found that he had an outstanding traffic penalty.

The spokesman from the Indian Consulate said both these issues had now been successfully resolved and added: "We are very hopeful that he will leave today."

Mr Isaac, an employee in the Kingdom for more than 17 years, was arrested on July 19, 2001, after complaints were lodged concerning a farewell party held in his honour in a public hall.

Religious police raided his home late at night and interrogated Mr Isaac and his wife separately for more than three hours. His computer, photographs, Bibles, songbooks, and audio and video tapes were confiscated by the authorities.

His arrest led to the detention of a further 13 men of Eritrean, Ethiopian, Filipino and Nigerian nationalities, who were taken into custody between July and September. All were involved in private Christian worship in Jiddah. One man, an Ethiopian known only as Tishome, was released after he allegedly converted to Islam. A fifteenth man, Suleiman Keder also from Ethiopia, was mistaken for a Christian by the Saudi authorities and detained along with the others.

It is alleged that Christian songs were sung at the farewell party and there have been reports that Saudi nationals may have been present. It is feared that the arrests may have been part of an attempt to track down any Saudi nationals with Christian sympathies.

The men were never formally charged and were denied consular access for the duration of their imprisonment. Only when they were transferred to a deportation centre were consular visits permitted. Three of the men were beaten with rods during one of the interrogation sessions.

Kebrom Haile, an Eritrean, was the first to be deported on January 12, followed by a further seven men on January 18, 25 and 26. The remainder continue to be held in the Breman deportation centre in Jiddah, while their outstanding affairs are settled, according to human rights agency Middle East Concern.

The remaining detainees are Ethiopians Tinsaie Gizachew, Bahru Mengistu, Gabayu Tefera, and Filipino Dennis Moreno. Ismail "Worku" Abubaker, another Ethiopian, was transferred to a prison in Mecca on January 8, in order to settle his affairs there before deportation.

Just days after the men began to be deported, CSW received unconfirmed reports that religious police have arrested a further ten Indian Christians gathered in their private quarters to read the Bible in Riyadh.

The ten were reportedly taken into custody by religious police on January 16 and have been detained without charge since then. The men, from the poorer segment of the expatriate population, will be without an income whilst they are held, which could cause great financial strain on their families.

Stuart Windsor, CSW's National Director, said: "This shocking cycle of arrest, detention and deportation of innocent men on account of their religious faith must be brought to an end. As Saudi officials raise concerns for their citizens held in Camp X-Ray, they must re-examine their own treatment of foreign nationals in Saudi Arabia".

CSW calls upon the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to safeguard the freedom of all people resident in the Kingdom to worship in private according to their professed religion, as publicly guaranteed by senior Saudi officials. CSW further calls on the Kingdom to bring to an end the arbitrary arrest and detention of peaceful, law-abiding residents.

For more information contact Tina Lambert at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on 020 8942 8810 or email