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Press Release — May 14, 2002

Ten More Christians Arrested In Saudi Arabia

(Washington, DC – May 14, 2002) On Friday May10, 2002, the Saudi police in Jeddah arrested ten Christians at a meeting place known for some time by the Saudi authorities to be a gathering place for Ethiopian and Eritrean Christians. They were arrested as they arrived at a weekly Friday worship service.

Details of Friday’s arrests were relayed to the Washington, DC based human rights organization International Christian Concern (ICC). A Christian present at the time of the police raid, who asked not to be identified, said: “The Saudis, irregular as they always are, let some of us pass unquestioned. Other Christians who were arriving by car drove off when they noticed suspicious police vehicles parked near the building that serves as our church. Those who made it safely to the church, together with those who had stayed at the church since the previous night, completed the scheduled Friday Bible classes. While we were continuing with the regular Friday service, seven police officers forced themselves into our church. We all politely stood up, showing respect to our Saudi guests, and blessed them. We then sat down quietly as the police questioned Mr. Endashaw Adane. The intruders then searched the adjoining premises for alcoholic drinks or anything they can use as an excuse to harass us. When they came back to where we were all assembled, they found us praying.”

The total number of detainees has been confirmed to be ten. Nine were detained on May 10th. They include: 1. Mekbeb Tilahun 2. Amsalu Sefaf 3. Miss Sisay Daba 4. Miss Saba Haile 5. Miss Bertukan Belayneh 6. Ali Abegaz 7. Miss Konjit Bidiquo 8. Miss Abrehet Gebremedhin 9. Miss Almaz Berakhi.

The men detainees are at a nearby Sharafeya police station. The whereabouts of the six female Christians is not known at this time.

Late Saturday night, May 11, 2002, three Ministry of Interior agents, two plainclothes and one in uniform, came to the church. They found the church caretaker Ghirmay Embaye and the janitor Miss Beletu Funja. They took both to the Sharafeya prison and questioned them. Ghirmay was sent home and Beletu was sent to the Terhil (deportation) prison. With the arrest of Miss Beletu, the total number of detainees is now at ten.

This recent arrest marks the third raid on Christian homes or meeting places since early last summer. A total of 14 were arrested during the summer and the last one was finally released and deported in late March. Then on April 25, 2002, in the area of Malaz, near Riyadh, a group of Christians holding a late-night prayer meeting were detained and interrogated. The Malaz area is where a number of Christians were arrested in October 1999. The recent raid in Malaz included more than 20 Christians of different nationalities (including children) who were interrogated. Some were arrested and it has not been confirmed if they are still being detained or have been released.

With Saudi Arabia’s reluctant support of America’s War on Terrorism, it appears that the Saudi government is carrying out its own war – a war against Christians who practice their faith in this Muslim kingdom that has traditionally shown no tolerance toward Christians.