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mediazioni e arbitrati, risoluzione alternativa delle controversie e servizi di mediazione e arbitrato
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» 06/09/2012
SAUDI ARABIA
Jeddah: 35 Ethiopian Christians still in prison after praying in a private home
They were arrested in December 2011. Despite US pressures, Saudi authorities deny religion was the motive behind their detention. Since 2006, praying in private has been allowed in Saudi Arabia.

Jeddah (AsiaNews/ Agencies) - Thirty-five Ethiopian Christians will remain in jail in Jeddah. They were arrested in December 2011 when they were caught praying in a private home. On Thursday, International Christian Concern (ICC), a US-based Christian rights group, appealed for their release, noting contradictions in Saudi claims. Local authorities in fact refuse to acknowledge that the 29 women and 6 men were imprisoned for religious reasons. What is known is that they have been beaten, subjected to interrogations and strip searches.

In Saudi Arabia, Islam is the only religion allowed. However in 2006, the kingdom's authorities told the United States that they would "guarantee and protect the right to private worship for all, including non-Muslims who gather in homes for religious practice".  Public expressions of other religions would by contrast remain illegal.

On 15 December 2011, 35 Ethiopian immigrants gathered in the private home of one of them to pray during the Advent of Christmas. The religious police (Muttawa) burst into the house and arrested those present.

The Christians were first taken to a police station, and later moved to Buraiman Prison. Women were forced to strip for a body search; the men were beaten and insulted as "unbelievers".

Ten days after their arrest, the prisoners were taken to court where they were forced to affix their fingerprints on a paper they were not allowed to read.

The initial charge was "gender mingling", a term that refers to situations when unrelated members of the opposite sex are found together.

In May, the US Congress asked the Saudi Embassy in Washington to explain the situation. Embassy officer Sarah Nezamuddin told a Congressional office that the Christians had all been arrested for involvement in drug and human trafficking, a story she later changed to issues relating to their work permits. For Congress officials, the Christians did not commit any crime and should be released.

According to ICC sources, a few days after the meeting in Washington, the prisoners were brought to a court for the first time in six months. After two hearings, the authorities locked them up against without specifying reasons for the detention or when they would be released.

"I continue to be baffled by the inability of the Saudi government to explain exactly why 35 Christians attending a prayer service at a private home were suddenly arrested almost six months ago," said ICC Advocacy Officer Ryan Morgan.

"The story keeps changing, and it is very troubling to think that a key US ally in the Middle East may be lying to US government officials about why they are arresting religious minorities," Morgan added.


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See also
02/20/2013 SAUDI ARABIA - ETHIOPIA
Saudi Arabia: 53 Ethiopian Christians arrested for praying in a private home
03/31/2005 SAUDI ARABIA
Police razes clandestine Hindu temple in Riyadh, deports three people
09/24/2004 SAUDI ARABIA
New false accusations brought in court against O'Connor, an Indian-born Christian
by Lorenzo Fazzini
08/03/2007 SAUDI ARABIA
Egyptian Christian medic “hostage” of Saudi kingdom
06/19/2006 SAUDI ARABIA
Arrested: four Christians found praying at home

Editor's choices
IRAQ-ITALY
"Adopt a Christian from Mosul," the thanks of the Patriarch Louis Sako; the concerns of the Bishop of Kurdistan
by Bernardo CervelleraThe head of the Chaldean Church is grateful for the AsiaNews campaign and hopes that "this chain of solidarity will reach far and wide”. Helping refugees to remain in Iraq. But many want to flee abroad. The bishop of Amadiyah where thousands of displaced people have found haven in churches and homes: We also help the Arabs (Muslims), and Yazidis, for free and without looking at our confessional differences.
ITALY - IRAQ
"Adopt a Christian from Mosul" to respond directly to Iraq's emergencyAsiaNews is launching a fundraiser to support Christians targeted by the Islamic State, thus responding to a request by the Patriarch of Baghdad and Pope Francis's urgent appeal "to guarantee all necessary assistance - especially the most urgently needed aid - to the great multitude of people who have been driven from their homes, whose fate depends entirely on the solidarity of others." More than 100,000 people have been forced to flee their homes leaving everything behind and now have nothing to live on. To help them, five euros a day are enough. The funds raised will be sent to the Patriarchate of Baghdad, which will distribute them according to the needs of each family.
CHINA - VATICAN
Wenzhou bishop and priests slam government's campaign against crosses and churches in Zhejiang
by Eugenia ZhangFor Mgr Vincent Zhu Weifang, from the official Church, the campaign of destruction is increasing social instability. It is real persecution against the Christian faith. The bishop apologises for failing to intervene sooner. He was hoping that the campaign would end quickly. Catholics and Protestants suffer injuries as they attempt to defend their sacred buildings. For priests in Wenzhou, the campaign is unfair and touches buildings that have all the right papers. Such "stupid acts" by the government are undermining social harmony.

Dossier
by Giulio Aleni / (a cura di) Gianni Criveller
pp. 176
by Lazzarotto Angelo S.
pp. 528
by Bernardo Cervellera
pp. 240
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