Two men deported from Saudi Arabia for owning a Bible and Christian CDs

Monday, May 20, 2002

Filipino Christians, Danilo de Guzman, 38, and Benjamin Diaz, 40, were deported to the Philippines last Saturday after spending more than a month in prison.

The men were caught in possession of a Bible and some Christian CDs (including a gospel of Luke and two Christian music CDs) when police raided their room on March 29 2001 in Abqaiq, about 350km north-east of Riyadh.

A local court sentenced them to a month's imprisonment in April 2001 and a higher court increased their sentence to include 150 lashes in January 2002. De Guzman told CSW today that he was not given a lawyer and that only his company liason officer was present during the hearings.

The two men were taken from their flat on April 10 this year and de Guzman's wife Evelyn told CSW that he spoke with her hurriedly on the phone: "He just said, 'Don't worry, God will help us. Take care of the children.'"

They were taken to prison in Abqaiq and were spared the lashes, but told they would be deported instead.

In addition, de Guzman paid a fine of 3,500 Saudi Riyals (about £630), which was made up of 500 Riyals (£90) for the pocket Bible and 500 Riyals for each CD.

They were later transferred to a deportation centre in Dammam. After their papers were cleared, they were deported together on a flight to the Philippines, arriving in Manila on Sunday morning.

"I'm glad we're all together now", Evelyn said, "and that he is safe and in good health".

De Guzman went to work in Saudi Arabia as an electrical engineer in September 2000, leaving his wife and children, aged ten, two and one, in the Philippines.

He said: "Thank you so much for your prayers. Please pray for my family, as we are now without an income until I find a new job.

"We are afraid we won't be able to send my son to school this year, as the admission fees, uniform and books are so expensive. Please pray that I would find a job soon. It is very difficult to find a job in the Philippines and I am going to try to get work abroad again."

The public expression of religious belief other than Islam is forbidden in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, but senior Saudi officials have repeatedly stated that non-Muslims are free to practise their faith in the privacy of their own homes.

Over the summer months of 2001, 14 expatriate Christians were detained in connection with their Christian faith in a spate of arrests in Jiddah. The last of these detainees was finally deported at the end of March this year. Three men suffered 80 lashes each, even though none appeared before a court and they were not formally charged with any crime.

CSW condemns the prison terms and the fine imposed on these men. CSW's Advocacy Director Tina Lambert, said: "De Guzman and Diaz were imprisoned for exercising their right to worship in private. It is inexcusable that the mere possession of religious materials can lead to job loss and deportation in the Kingdom."

CSW is calling on the international community to speak out against breaches of freedom of religion and other fundamental human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia.

For more information contact Richard Chilvers at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on 020 8949 0587 or 020 8942 8810 or email