08/08/2012, 00.00
SAUDI ARABIA

Two men accused of forced conversion go on trial in September

The first hearing is set for 15 September. Two men, one Lebanese and one Saudi, allegedly helped a young woman from Al-Khobar to convert to Christianity and flee the country. She is said to be in London at present. She worked for an insurance company. Among Saudis, many call for exemplary punishment.

Riyadh (AsiaNews/ Agencies) - A Lebanese Christian and a Saudi national are set to go on trial on 15 September for converting a Saudi woman in Al-Khobar, a Saudi city on the Persian Gulf. Anonymous sources say the new convert lives in London at present, after going through Lebanon, Turkey and Sweden.

The woman, who worked in an insurance company, encountered Christianity through her Lebanese boss and a Saudi colleague. The three in secret for a few months until the young woman fell in love with the Lebanese man who gave her books on Christianity and invited her to take part in online religious chat rooms. After she converted, she decided to flee to Lebanon with the help of the two men.

Her father filed a complaint about his daughter's disappearance and the police arrested the two men. In his statement, the father claims that the boss influenced the young woman, inspiring wrong ideas about Islam that shook her convictions and led her to leave the country illegally.

Under Saudi law, women are not allowed to have a passport without the permission of their guardian, i.e. father, husband or brother.

According to investigators, the Saudi man who had business connections with the Lebanese man's company helped the woman get the necessary papers to travel to Lebanon and then to Great Britain.

In recent days, Saudi newspaper Al Youm quoted the woman as saying that she wanted to go home, but was afraid that she would face harsh punishment. Her family said that they had given a written pledge that they would not harm her.

However, a letter is also purported to exist in which the young woman defends her new faith, saying that the Church is her only home.

Within Saudi Arabia, the case has been controversial with some calling for harsh punishment against the two men accused of forced conversion.

 

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