Saudi Arabia Detains East Africa Christians

Friday, June 16, 2006

By BosNewsLife News Center

RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA (BosNewsLife) -- Two Ethiopian and two Eritrean Christians remained in a deportation jail Thursday, June 15, after Saudi Arabian police armed with wooden clubs reportedly raided a private Christian worship meeting in the coastal city of Jeddah.

The worshippers apparently brought chairs to seat the policemen, who sat and waited for the three-hour worship service to conclude. None of the police, including members of the religious police who visited the gathering also two weeks earlier, used their clubs or physically mishandled the worshippers, Christians said.

But after the June 9 weekly praise and prayer service finished, police allegedly arrested four leaders of the group identified as Ethiopian Christians Mekbeb Telahun and Masai Wendewesen, together with Eritrean Christians Fekre Gebremedhin and Dawit Uqbay. Three of the men are married; Wendewesen is single.


The four were jailed in the Jeddah Terhil (Deportation) Center, where guards have since permitted an acquaintance to bring them all a change of clothes, Compass Direct said.
Three of the men are married; Wendewesen is single.

A Christian who met them and apparently spoke on condition of anonymity was quoted as saying that they were "doing fine, with okay morale," but he cautioned it was unclear whether they were undergoing interrogation. The incident was said to have been reported to consular officials of the Philippines and the United States.

Freedom House and other groups have expressed concern over the treatment of prisoners in Saudi jails, and footage from a Jeddah prison seems to confirm the findings, BosNewsLife monitored.

Typically the Saudi government deports expatriate Christians caught conducting worship meetings in their homes or privately owned villas, forcing their employers to terminate their work contracts, Christian observers say


Under the kingdom’s strict interpretation of Islamic law, public non-Muslim worship is prohibited, although members of the royal family insist that Christians are free to worship within their own homes.

Last year five East Africans were detained for a month for leading a private Christian worship service in Riyadh as part of a major crackdown on foreign Christians. (With BosNewsLife Research and reports from Saudi Arabia).

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