Christian Released from Saudi Prison

The last Christian detained in an earlier crackdown by Saudi authorities has been released

The last Christian detained in an earlier crackdown by Saudi authorities has been released, according to a Christian human rights organization.

After nearly four months in prison, Samkutty Varghese was released from a Saudi prison and left Saudi Arabia at 2 a.m. on Thursday, July 21, according to a report received Friday morning by Washington, DC-based International Christian Concern (ICC). After his official deportation, Varghese arrived safely in India.

“International Christian Concern is very pleased with the release of Samkutty Varghese, and asks everyone to continue their support for increased transparency and religious freedom within Saudi Arabia,” ICC stated.

“In addition, we urge the new Ambassador to the United States, Prince Turkey al-Faisal, to take up the cause of freedom in Saudi Arabia and to take seriously Saudi’s Country of Particular Concern status,” it added.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) – which recommended that Saudi Arabia be designated a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, since the organization’s inception in 1999 – claimed in its newly released annual report on international religious freedom that the government of Saudi Arabia was still engaged in systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of the right to freedom of religion and belief.

Despite the State Department’s contention it it’s 2004 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom that there were slight improvements in Saudi government efforts to foster religious tolerance in Saudi society, the report again concluded that freedom of religion “does not exist” in Saudi Arabia, the USCIRF stated.

“The Saudi government continues to engage in an array of severe violations of human rights as part of its official repression of freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief,” it added.

According to ICC, Varghese’s arrest on Mar. 22 led to a later crackdown that involved standard police forces and Saudi’s special religious police, the Muttawa. During the crackdown, Saudi authorities reportedly ransacked homes and destroyed religious materials found in the victims’ possession.

ICC reported that many saw the crackdown as a response to allegations against the United States for desecrating the Qur’an at the Guantanamo Bay detention center.