BEIRUT (The Daily Star): A Saudi court convicted a Lebanese man for “evangelism” for encouraging a Saudi woman to convert to Christianity and helping her leave the country, local press reported over the weekend. A court in Khobar sentenced the man to six years in prison and 300 lashes, while another man convicted in the same case, a Saudi, was given two years in prison and 200 lashes. Both are planning to appeal. Under Saudi law, any form of proselytization is illegal, and Muslims who convert to another religion must be sentenced to death.
Select stories of religious rights violations
CAIRO (AP in Huffington Post) — An Egyptian Foreign Ministry official says a man suspected of trying to spread Christianity in Libya has died in prison there. The diplomat says Ezzat Atallah, who suffered from diabetes and heart ailments, likely died of natural causes. He spoke anonymously Sunday in line with regulations. Atallah was among five Evangelical Christian Egyptians detained in Libya for allegedly proselytizing in the predominantly Muslim nation.
Washington Post (blog by Jordan Sekulow and Matthew Clark) — It is unclear how long the sham trial against Pastor Saeed Abedini continued. What is clear, however, is that Iran and Judge Pir-Abassi, one of Iran’s infamous “hanging judges” who conducted the trial, have engaged in an attempt to spread lies and disinformation about the case, while conducting the trial in secret. Iranian officials repeatedly issued contradictory statements – promising that Pastor Saeed would be released on bail – only to repeatedly reject those bail requests. Pastor Saeed’s wife Naghmeh, whom we at the ACLJ represent, explained: “This has been a repeated promise by the Iranian regime since Saeed was first thrown in prison. We have presented bail. After the Judge told Saeed’s lawyer that bail was back on the table, the family in Tehran ran around in circles today to make sure Saeed was let out on bail. But again the bail officer rejected bail. This is a game to silence the international media.”
(Fox News) Supporters of an Egyptian woman sentenced with her seven children to 15 years in prison for converting to Christianity say the U.S. government must do more to stick up for her and other religious minorities in the Middle East. Nadia Mohamed Ali and her children drew the shocking sentence this month from a judge in Beni Suef, a city of 200,000 located about 75 miles south of Cairo. Ali, who was raised a Christian and converted to marry her Muslim husband, sought to return to her spiritual roots when he died. But the Egyptian government zeroed in on her effort to have her and her children’s national ID cards altered to mark the conversion.
(Fox News) As her husband’s trial and possible death sentence looms, the wife of an American Christian pastor imprisoned in Iran for evangelizing clings to hope and prays for a miracle. Naghmeh Abedini has been told by attorneys for her husband, Saeed, to expect the worst at Monday’s trial, where the 32-year-old husband and father faces the capital charge of compromising national security. Supporters believe the charges are directly related to Abedini’s work nearly a decade ago starting a house church movement in Iran, and the judge he’ll face, Abbas Pir-Abassi, is infamous for sending defendants to the gallows. “There is a lot going through my mind. I can never clear my head. I only sleep two hours a night,” Naghmeh Abedini told Foxnews.com by phone from her family’s home near Boise. “Unfortunately, he has been set up for failure and a harsh sentence because of his beliefs. His attorney says that the court has gathered a large amount of evidence against him.”
Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has been freed -- yet again -- from an Iranian prison.
(FoxNews.com) Youcef Nadarkhani, the Iranian Christian pastor who had been re-arrested on Christmas Day after serving nearly three years in prison for renouncing Islam, was released today, according to individuals close to the pastor and his family. Nadarkhani, 35, had been held since Christmas Day at Lakan Prison in Rasht, the facility where he was imprisoned from 2010 to 2012 in a case that made international headlines. Although he initially faced possible execution, he had been freed in November, with just 45 days left on a downgraded sentence issued after Fox News and other media outlets drew attention to his plight.
(PressTV): At least two Egyptians have lost their lives and two others wounded in a bomb attack on an Egyptian Orthodox Church near the Western Libyan city of Misrata, officials say. “Two Egyptians were killed and two were wounded,” said an unnamed diplomat at the Egyptian Embassy in Libyan capital, Tripoli, on Sunday. Those wounded were rushed to a nearby hospital for medical treatment, he added. The attack took place on Saturday in Dafniya, a Mediterranean village situated some 30 kilometers (18.5 miles) west of Misrata, after two unknown assailants threw a homemade explosive at the church.
(Fox News) A 32-year-old Iranian who is a U.S. citizen and a Christian convert has been imprisoned without notice of any formal charges while visiting his family in Iran, according to his wife and attorneys in the U.S., who are now hoping that a media campaign will help set him free. The Rev. Saeed Abedini, who lives in the U.S. with his wife and two young children, was making one of his frequent visits to see his parents and the rest of his family in Iran, his country of origin and where he spent many years as a Christian leader and community organizer developing Iran’s underground home church communities for Christian converts.
CAIRO (VOA) — Tentative results from Saturday’s first round of voting in Egypt’s constitutional referendum are showing a narrow lead for supporters of the document. Opposition and civil society groups allege vote fraud, while the head of Egypt’s electoral commission denied those charges. Egyptian media and rival political groups are reporting that around 56.5 percent of voters approved the country’s controversial new constitution in the first round of polling Saturday. Initial results also indicate that about one-third of 26 million eligible voters cast their ballots.
Kazakhstan government 'did the right thing' in allowing wanted Uzbek pastor to leave.
(Forum 18 News Service) — Uzbek Protestant pastor Makset Djabbarbergenov was released from prison in Kazakhstan’s commercial capital Almaty yesterday (4 December) and taken to the airport to be reunited with his wife and four children. They boarded a flight for Germany in the early hours of today (5 December), arriving safely in Europe, his friends told Forum 18 News Service. Facilitating the release and asylum in Europe was the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Uzbekistan has been seeking to extradite Djabbarbergenov on charges which carry a maximum 15 year prison term to punish him for leading an unregistered Protestant community. His friends in Almaty told Forum 18 “we need to thank the Kazakh government – they did the right thing”. Meanwhile, the Kazakh government – condemned by the United Nations Committee Against Torture for sending back to Uzbekistan 29 Muslim asylum seekers who alleged they would face torture – has insisted to the UN that they have checked that none was tortured in prison in Uzbekistan.