Two men deported from Saudi Arabia
for owning a Bible and Christian CDs

For immediate release

May 20 2002

Two men deported from Saudi Arabia for owning a Bible and Christian CDs

Filipino Christians, Danilo de Guzman, 38, and Benjamin Diaz, 40, were
deported to the Philippines last Saturday after spending more than a month
in prison.

The men were caught in possession of a Bible and some Christian CDs
(including a gospel of Luke and two Christian music CDs) when police raided
their room on March 29 2001 in Abqaiq, about 350km north-east of Riyadh.

A local court sentenced them to a month's imprisonment in April 2001 and a
higher court increased their sentence to include 150 lashes in January 2002.
De Guzman told CSW today that he was not given a lawyer and that only his
company liason officer was present during the hearings.

The two men were taken from their flat on April 10 this year and de Guzman's
wife Evelyn told CSW that he spoke with her hurriedly on the phone: "He just
said, 'Don't worry, God will help us. Take care of the children.'"

They were taken to prison in Abqaiq and were spared the lashes, but told
they would be deported instead.

In addition, de Guzman paid a fine of 3,500 Saudi Riyals (about 630), which
was made up of 500 Riyals (90) for the pocket Bible and 500 Riyals for each
CD.

They were later transferred to a deportation centre in Dammam. After their
papers were cleared, they were deported together on a flight to the
Philippines, arriving in Manila on Sunday morning.

"I'm glad we're all together now", Evelyn said, "and that he is safe and in
good health".

De Guzman went to work in Saudi Arabia as an electrical engineer in
September 2000, leaving his wife and children, aged ten, two and one, in the
Philippines.

He said: "Thank you so much for your prayers.  Please pray for my family, as
we are now without an income until I find a new job.

"We are afraid we won't be able to send my son to school this year, as the
admission fees, uniform and books are so expensive.  Please pray that I
would find a job soon. It is very difficult to find a job in the Philippines
and I am going to try to get work abroad again."

The public expression of religious belief other than Islam is forbidden in
the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, but senior Saudi officials have repeatedly
stated that non-Muslims are free to practise their faith in the privacy of
their own homes.

Over the summer months of 2001, 14 expatriate Christians were detained in
connection with their Christian faith in a spate of arrests in Jiddah. The
last of these detainees was finally deported at the end of March this year.
Three men suffered 80 lashes each, even though none appeared before a court
and they were not formally charged with any crime.

CSW condemns the prison terms and the fine imposed on these men.  CSW's
Advocacy Director Tina Lambert, said: "De Guzman and Diaz were imprisoned
for exercising their right to worship in private.  It is inexcusable that
the mere possession of religious materials can lead to job loss and
deportation in the Kingdom."

CSW is calling on the international community to speak out against breaches
of freedom of religion and other fundamental human rights abuses in Saudi
Arabia.

For more information contact Richard Chilvers at Christian Solidarity
Worldwide on 020 8949 0587 or 020 8942 8810 or email
richard.chilvers@csw.org.uk

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