Two Indian workers were arrested in Saudi Arabia recently on charges of proselytizing and sentenced to 45 days in prison.
Vasantha Sekhar and Nese Yohan were arrested and beaten in the Saudi capital of Riyadh on March 11, according to a report released by International Christian Concern (ICC) on Monday.
“These two Christians have faced false charges and false evidence,” said Logan Maurer, ICC advocacy director. “The Saudi government continues to engage in an array of severe violations of human rights as part of its repression of freedom of religion.”
The Christians were incarcerated to prevent them from practicing their faith privately at home, said ICC. While in prison awaiting trial, the men’s apartment was ransacked.
One of the Christians was given his passport after being fired by his employer and now faces deportation. The other believer awaits information regarding his employment and legal status.
Saudi Arabia often invites foreign workers, which includes Christians. However, foreign workers often endure abuse from their employers regardless of their faith. Less educated workers are often expected to work in sweat-shop conditions.
The government often turns a blind eye to complaints against employers and workers cannot expect due process of law.
The Human Rights Watch reported in 2004 that foreigners are often denied consular visits and are forced to sign confessions that they cannot read. The report also revealed that foreigners receiving the death penalty were beheaded before their families could receive the news.
Workers, if discovered to be non-Muslim, often face harsher abuses. Reports of crackdowns against Christians persist in the oil-rich nation.
In February 2008, 16 workers from India were arrested and then released three days later. In 2010, eight freely chose to leave, and three were expelled from the country. And in 2004, 28 Indian workers were arrested in Messriam. Charges were later dropped, but then were later revived in 2010. One worker was later arrested, while another was deported.
In 2007, Egyptian Christian surgeon Dr. Mamdooh Fahmy was arrested in Riyadh. At the hospital he worked at, Fahmy came under pressure by Muslim colleagues to convert to Islam. When he refused, Fahmy was accused of being a missionary, which is illegal. Later, police arrested Fahmy on trumped-up charges of conducting missionary activities and consuming alcohol at work. Fahmy was initially barred from leaving Saudi Arabia, but later the Saudi government allowed him to return to Egypt when his case was publicized around the world.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as it calls itself, does not allow non-Islamic items to enter the country, including Bibles and crucifixes.
The ban extends to statues, carvings and items bearing religious symbols such as the Star of David. At customs, visitors can expect such items to be confiscated along with alcohol, firearms and pornography.