Four of seven Christians arrested in December and January for alleged "cult" activities and detained under Brunei's Internal Security Act were released the week of February 11.

They were reportedly told not to leave the country or talk about their detention, according to a source who did not want to be identified, but it is unclear if any other conditions were attached to their release.

Three Christians remain in detention, including Fredie Chong, who was earlier reported to have been released. Two other believers called in for questioning on February 22 were released the same day. A source close to the case said the Christians were detained because they had participated in a well-organized prayer program.

Among those released in mid-February were Tokching bin Ikas, an engineer with the health department; Mary Cheong, a dentist; "Ibu" Roslin, a housewife; and a person identified only as Mariam Murang. They were arrested on January 30.

Murang, Cheong, and Roslin are reported to be in good spirits. While imprisoned, Cheong and Roslin fasted, prayed and sang "like Paul and Silas," a friend reported. Concerned prison guards asked them how they remained strong without eating.

Just after midnight on December 17, about 50 police officers, including agents from the religious affairs department, surrounded the house of Malai Taufick Haji Malai Mashor in Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital of Brunei. Identifying themselves as officers from the Internal Security Department (ISD), they conducted a thorough search and took away three bags of "incriminating evidence": Bibles, Christian literature, audio testimony tapes and other Christianity-related items. They then arrested Taufick and Yunus Murang (brother of Mariam Murang).

The next day, ISD officers arrested Chong. But according to an informed source, the only link Chong had with the two arrested men was a business deal with Taufick.

Yunus Murang, a civil servant attached to the Health Department, was initially accused of evangelism of Muslims in Brunei. But after security officers went through documents discovered in his briefcase on the night of his arrest, they detained Murang for alleged participation in religious cult activities. He has since been charged with smuggling Indonesian Bibles into the country and given a two-year prison sentence, which authorities said can be appealed this month.

The authorities are looking for Taufick's wife, who was out of the country on business when her husband's arrest took place. She is supposedly wanted for questioning only, but it is suspected that she could also be detained. The Tauficks' four young children are not currently in Brunei. Under Muslim family law, Taufick's extended family has the right to take the children from their "apostate" parents and raise them as Muslims.

Islam is the state religion in Brunei, a southeast Asian nation on the northern coast of the island of Borneo. It is bordered by the Malaysian state of Sarawak.

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