(Beirut) – Thirty five Ethiopian Christians are awaiting deportation native Saudi Arabia for “illicit mingling,” after ~ police arrested them when they raided a exclusive prayer gathering in Jeddah in mid-December, 2011, human being Rights Watch said today. That those arrested, 29 were women. They were based on arbitrary body cavity searches in custody, three of the Ethiopians told human Rights Watch.

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The Ethiopians gathered to pray together on December 15, throughout the advent of Christmas, in the private home of among the Ethiopians, when police explode in and arrested them, three jailed members of the group, two women and one man, told human being Rights Watch.

“While King Abdullah sets up an worldwide interfaith conversation center, his police room trampling on the rights of loyalty of rather faiths,” said Christoph Wilcke, an elderly Middle east researcher for person Rights Watch. “The Saudi federal government needs to change its own intolerant ways before it deserve to promote religious dialogue abroad.”

In October, Saudi Arabia, in addition to Austria and also Spain, founded the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz international Centre because that Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue, located in Vienna, and funded by Saudi Arabia.

The Ethiopian men spent 2 days in ~ al-Nuzha police station in Jeddah, after which the police moved them to Buraiman prison. The ladies had currently been transferred to Buraiman prison. Two of the women stated that public official there required the females to strip, and then an officer inserted her finger right into each that the women’s genitals, under the pretext of looking for illegal substances covert inside your bodies. She wore a plastic gloves that she did no change, the women told human Rights Watch. Officers likewise kicked and beat the men in Buraiman prison, and also insulted them together “unbelievers,” the jailed Ethiopian male said.

Both men and also women complained of insufficient medical care and also unsanitary conditions at Buraiman prison. There to be too few toilets, lock said. In the men’s wing, six of twelve bathrooms were scheduled for Saudi inmates, when hundreds of international inmates were compelled to share the remaining six toilets. One woman detainee claimed she suffers native diabetes and also was offered an injection in the prison clinic that led to swelling, and also has obtained no additional medical attention.

The Ethiopians, speaking via telephone indigenous prison, said that about 10 days after gift arrested, some in the team were required to court, where they were required to affix their fingerprints come a document without being enabled to read it. Officials told the team that they to be being charged through “illicit mingling” the unmarried persons of opposing sex. Some of the Ethiopians have actually been life in the kingdom because that 16 years, while rather are more recent arrivals. Several of the women and also men did not have actually valid residency papers, but all faced deportation, including those v valid papers, the jailed Ethiopian man said.

In July 2006, the Saudi government promised the it would avoid interfering with private worship by non-Muslims. In a “Confirmation that Policies,” a written paper the Saudi government sent come the united state government, Saudi Arabia said it would “guarantee and also protect the appropriate to private worship for all, consisting of non-Muslims that gather in dwellings for spiritual practice,” and also “ensure that members that the do not detain or conduct investigations the suspects, carry out punishment, violate the sanctity of personal homes.” In this document, the government likewise said it would investigate any infringements of these policies. Public worship of any religion other than Islam stays prohibited in the kingdom.

“Saudi authorities have damaged their promises to respect other faiths,” Wilcke said. “Men and also women of other faiths have nowhere to worship in Saudi Arabia if even their private dwellings are no much longer safe.”

The Arab Charter of person Rights, come which Saudi Arabia is a state party, promises “he flexibility to manifest one’s religion or beliefs or come perform spiritual observances, either alone or in neighborhood with others,” and also prohibits “arbitrary arrest.”

Saudi Arabia has no encode criminal legislation or other regulation that defines “illicit mingling.” In 2006, Shaikh Ibrahim al-Ghaith, the chairman of the Commission for the promotion of Virtue and the avoidance of Vice, the spiritual police, told person Rights clock in one interview in Riyadh, “Mingling the the sexes is prohibition in public, and permitted in personal unless it is for the purpose of corruption.”

Human legal rights Watch dubbed on the Saudi authorities to release the 35 Ethiopian men and women automatically if there is no evidence to charge them v offenses that space recognizably criminal under international norms. Saudi authorities should additionally investigate their allegations that physical and also sexual abuse and, if warranted, compensate them because that arbitrary arrest and any mistreatment lock endured, and also to organize accountable any kind of officials found to be responsible because that these acts.

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Human rights Watch likewise called ~ above the authorities to enable members the the team who are afraid persecution in Ethiopia to lodge asylum insurance claims with the UN refugees Agency.