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Bearing the Cross: Flogged and Deported

Saudi Arabian authorities on January 28 lashed three Ethiopian Christians 80 times each with a flexible metal cable in front of more than 1,000 detainees. The three Christians (whom authorities were about to deport because of their faith) smuggled a letter out of the Bremen Deportation Prison in Jeddah to describe their treatment. Officials beat and kicked them before suspending them with chains and flogging them, and Saudi authorities denied them medical care for back wounds.

"Our bodies are wounded, swollen, terribly bruised, and with great pain," Baharu Mengistu, Tinsaie Gizachew, and Gebeyehu Tefera wrote to Washington, D.C.-based International Christian Concern and other agencies.

"Baharu's kidney may have been damaged, and he is passing blood with his urine," they wrote. "When we reported to the prison hospital for treatment, we were slapped and told to come back after we were dead. It seems as if we were brought [here] to be tortured and tormented to death."

Mengistu received limited medical care two days later. Authorities deported him on February 2, according to Middle East Concern (MEC) of Loughborough, United Kingdom.

Saudi officials arrested the three Ethiopians and 11 other foreign workers last summer. At press time most of them had been deported. Authorities never formally charged them with wrongdoing.

Ministry of Interior officials began rounding up the 14 house-church leaders after a citizen complained about foreign Christians renting a public hall for a farewell party on June 2.

Saudi Arabia prohibits public worship by members of faiths other than Sunni Islam. The regime allows the country's 7 million foreign workers, about one-third of the population, to worship in private. Muslims who convert to another religion ...

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