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Appeal Made for 8 Christians Arrested in Saudi Arabia: Prisoners Reportedly Subjected to Abuse

 

6/7/2005 11:56:00 AM - zenit.org

 

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, JUNE 8, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Relatives and friends have made an appeal for the release of eight Christians arrested May 28 in Riyadh because of their faith.

 

The appeal was sent to AsiaNews, an agency of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions. Among those arrested by the muttawa, or religious police, is John Thomas, 37, a native of Kerala, India, and fellow countryman Vijay Kumar, 45, of Tamil Nadu.

 

Thomas is accused of "proselytizing," but his relatives explained that for the past eight years all he did was hold private prayer meetings in his apartment with fellow Indian Christians. They also said that this is the first time that he was targeted and that he has been "tortured in inhumane ways," AsiaNews reported.

 

Working with the regular police, the muttawa picked up Thomas from his place of work and drove him home. There, he was beaten in front of his 5-year-old son and a baby sitter, who was also struck, AsiaNews said.

 

After his Bibles and other religious objects were collected, he was taken to prison. When Thomas' five-month pregnant wife returned home, she found the place wrecked, the news agency said. Together with relatives, she launched an appeal for her husband's release and their family's right to return to India.

 

On the same day that Thomas was arrested, seven other Christians were detained and taken to prison. Sources told AsiaNews that one of them was able to call a friend using a cellphone, describing how they are being subject to torture.

 

The anti-Christian crackdown in Riyadh comes after another arrest last March, that of Samkutty Varghese, an evangelical Christian also from India. The muttawa found a Hindi version of the Bible in his bag and a list of phone numbers, which they used to carry out other arrests.

 

According to International Christian Concern, a Washington, D.C.-based human rights organization, the May 28 crackdown is the biggest one against religious minorities in the country in the last decades.

 

In Saudi Arabia, only the Islamic faith may be publicly expressed.

 

 

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