SAUDI ARABIA - ETHIOPIA
Saudi Arabia: 53 Ethiopian Christians arrested for praying in a private home
46 are women, and most likely face deportation. The authorities have accused them of converting Muslims to Christianity. There is no religious freedom in the country: the monarchy allows private worship of other faiths, but the religious police carry out indiscriminate arrests.
Damman (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Saudi Arabia has arrested 53 Ethiopian Christians - 46 women and six men - for holding a prayer meeting in a private home. Police officials have sealed the house and taken the faithful away, accusing the three religious leaders present of attempting to convert Muslims to Christianity. The incident occurred at Dammam, the capital of the Eastern Province of the Kingdom, and dates to February 8, but local sources, linked to the World Evangelical Alliance's Religious Liberty Commission (WEA-Rlc) recently reported the news.
According to the WEA-RLC, Saudi authorities should release two of the Christians who hold residency permits. In all likelihood, all the others will be deported.
Saudi Arabia does not recognize, or protect, any religious expression other than Islam. The religious police (muttawa) carries out controls to eliminate the presence of Bibles, rosaries, Crosses and Christian assemblies. And even if the royal family allows religious practices other than Islam, at least in private, muttawa agents tend not to differentiate.
This is not the first episode of religious persecution against the Ethiopian community. In December 2011, the Saudi authorities arrested 35 Ethiopian Christians, 29 of them women, charging them with "illegal socialization." In this case, the faithful were detained in the middle of a prayer meeting in a private home in Jeddah. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), the imprisoned women were subjected to arbitrary "medical inspections".
The city of Dammam, where the accident occurred on February 8, is a major industrial center and port, rich in oil and natural gas.
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
THE HAGUE — A relaxed-looking former Côte d’Ivoire president Laurent Gbagbo appeared in the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Tuesday to hear whether accusations of crimes against humanity against him were strong enough for a full trial.
Mr Gbagbo, accused of plunging his country into civil war after 2010 elections rather than relinquishing his grip on power, would be the first ex-head of state to be tried by the court, whose credibility is at stake after a string of collapsed cases.
His lawyers accuse the Hague-based tribunal of doing the bidding of his successor, Alassane Ouattara, who has since sought to revive the economy of the world’s top cocoa grower and the country that was once the commercial hub of West Africa.
The 67-year-old former history professor, who was dressed in a sombre business suit and whose face was expressionless as he watched proceedings from his seat at the back of the court, is not due to speak until late next week. The sessions have been spread over several days to take account of his frail health.
About 300 or so supporters of Mr Gbagbo gathered on a patch of grass opposite the court to demand his release. "He’s not a dictator," said one supporter who called himself Babadwe.
"Gbagbo loves his people and his people love him. Have you ever heard of a president who kills his people and then have his people love him?"
The hearing is crucial for the court’s own prosecutors, who will seek to convince judges that Mr Gbagbo has a case to answer after a string of high-profile failures.
They must prove that Mr Gbagbo ordered his forces to commit murders, rapes and other human rights’ violations during violence in which about 3,000 people died in a four-month civil war that uprooted a million people from their homes.
Late last year, Congolese warlord Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui was acquitted in the court’s second verdict, and prosecutors have failed to make charges stick against four other African suspects.
Mr Gbagbo says he was leading government resistance against what he describes as Mr Ouattara’s foreign-backed northern rebellion. Mr Ouattara saw himself as the champion of excluded northerners who suffered under Mr Gbagbo’s southern government.
The conflict came to an end only after Mr Gbagbo was arrested by forces loyal to Mr Ouattara, with the help of French troops, prompting Mr Gbagbo’s supporters to argue that he is the victim of postcolonial meddling.
Prosecutors have also issued an arrest warrant for Gbagbo’s wife Simone, but Côte d’Ivoire has not surrendered her to the ICC’s custody.
A close Gbagbo ally, the leader of the Young Patriots youth movement Charles Ble Goude, was arrested last month in Ghana and was immediately extradited to face trial in Côte d’Ivoire.
Mr Gbagbo’s supporters and human rights groups have complained that abuses carried out by pro-Ouattara forces during the conflict have yet to be punished, arguing that this is holding back efforts to reconcile southerners and northerners.
Many Ivorians want to draw a line over the whole conflict.
"I think that the youth need to understand that Gbagbo has had his day and it’s over now," said Norbert Toualy, a pensioner in the commercial capital Abidjan. "He can come back after his trial, but he’s no longer going to be president."