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On September 15, Saudi Arabian authorities charged Brian O'Connor, a Christian from India, with drug use, selling alcohol, and possession of pornography. They also accused him of possessing Bibles and preaching Christianity.

When a Saudi court on October 20 sentenced O'Connor to 10 months in jail and 300 lashes for selling liquor, there was no mention of the proselytization charges—an omission that rights groups said was an attempt to cover up religious intolerance.

It was the muttawa'in, the semiautonomous "religious police" connected with the Saudi regime, that arrested O'Connor in Riyadh after he had been lured onto the street by an anonymous caller claiming to want to talk about Christ. More than five months before he was formally charged, the 36-year-old O'Connor was then tortured in a mosque. International Christian Concern (ICC) reports that when he was arrested on March 25, the muttawa'in hung O'Connor upside down and kicked him in the chest and ribs until 2 a.m. O'Connor told visitors that the religious police also whipped him with electrical wire on his back and on the soles of his feet.

According to the human-rights group Middle East Concern (MEC), O'Connor's video cds were not pornographic but biblical excerpts and documentaries, along with movies about the Bible.

The Saudi court threatened O'Connor with a harsher punishment if he appealed the conviction and lost. O'Connor decided to appeal anyway. Within 10 days, the Saudis mysteriously released him for deportation to India.

Such judicial processes exemplify why the U.S. State Department in September declared Saudi Arabia a Country of Particular Concern (CPC), after years of declining to do so. Designation as a CPC enables the United States to apply economic ...

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December 2004

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