Saudis Release Christian After 7 Months of Imprisonment

Indian Activist Elated

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NEW DELHI, India, NOV. 3, 2004 ( A human rights activist welcomed Saudi Arabia’s release of Brian Savio O’Connor, a Christian imprisoned for the last seven months.

No conditions were placed on O’Connor’s release, which occurred Monday. The Indian national was cleared of all the charges that led him to be sentenced to prison.

O’Connor, a Protestant from the Indian state of Karnakata, had been in prison in Riyadh since March, following his abduction and torture by Saudi religious police.

A colleague of O’Connor, who was employed in the luggage department of Saudi Arabia’s national airline, saw the latter in prison and said that «the graying hair and beard make Brian look much older than his 36 years.»

O’Connor’s release follows an international campaign on his behalf organized by John Dayal, secretary-general of the All India Christian Council, according to AsiaNews.

On June 3, Dayal wrote a letter to Saudi King Fahd bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud asking that his compatriot be given a «fair trial.» At the same time, an international campaign in favor of O’Connor was launched.

Thousands of Christians worldwide sent postcards in support of the imprisoned Indian. In Saudi Arabia there is no real freedom for any religion other than Islam.

O’Connor’s trial began in the summer. Charges against him included the sale of alcoholic beverages, drug use, and possession of pornographic material. The accused always claimed his innocence and was backed by his Saudi employers. On Oct. 20, he was found guilty of selling liquor and sentenced to 10 months in jail and 300 lashes. The other charges were dismissed.

On Oct. 26, John Dayal asked the Saudi king to show clemency to O’Connor. He also called on India’s president and its foreign minister to «use their good offices to free» him since India’s diplomatic mission in Saudi Arabia «was lethargic in the first weeks of Brian’s detention and only met him in prison later.»

O’Connor was placed on a flight for Bombay on Monday. On arrival, he was met by friends and acquaintances.

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