Christians released from jail in Egypt

By November 28, 2003

Egypt (MEC) — Two Egyptian Christians arrested in Riyadh on 25th October were released on Thursday 13th November and allowed to remain in the capital. Mr. Sabry Awad Gayed and Mr. Eskander Guirguis Eskandar were accused of evangelising non-Christians and of opening a new place of non-Muslim worship. The intervention of Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud brought about their release after the authorities produced no evidence to substantiate the allegations against them. They were well treated throughout their detention.

The Prince serves as the Second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence. He became involved when he received a letter from a church member stating that they had been arrested for no good reason. He personally reviewed their case and his order that they be released was implemented nine days later. The Prince was quoted recently by the Saudi Press Authority as saying, “We say to Christians: do whatever you want, you and your family, in your home, worship what you want, but there has not been, or will not be, a Church.”

Mr. Gayed works as a paediatrician and has been in Saudi Arabia for four years. Mr. Eskandar is a carpenter. Together they lead worship services in a home for fellow Arab Christians from Egypt and elsewhere. When arrested they had their Bibles with them which they explained to be their private Bibles.

Saudi Arabia has no public religious freedom except for the official state religion, but does allow the private practice of religion in homes. The actions of the two Egyptians were consistent with this. The authorities produced no evidence to support the accusations made.

The Christian meeting held in their home was investigated two years ago. However it was left alone because all 150 people present were Christians.

According to Compass Direct, Mr. Gayed’s wife, Dr. Salwa Khalil, was able to speak to her husband from Egypt each day of his detention. She reported that the two men were treated “in a respectful way” by the police. The couple have two young daughters.

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