FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE         24 July 1997

Christian Embassy Assails PA Torture of Arab Christians

The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem ("Embassy") today expressed urgent concern over the Palestinian Authority's brutal torture and persecution of Palestinian Arab Christians, and urged government and church leaders world-wide to condemn and sanction the PA for such behaviour.

Embassy officials stated: "We understand that Yasser Arafat's Palestinian police have been holding on false charges Muhammed Bak'r since June 30 in deplorable conditions, first at the Qalqilya interrogation centre and now at the Nablus prison. Bak'r has been repeatedly tortured, including beatings on his back and being hung from the ceiling by his hands, in an attempt to force a totally unwarranted confession from him of either "collaboration" with Israel or selling land to Jews. Bak'r, who comes from the village of Kiri (which is still within Israel's security jurisdiction under the Oslo agreements), is an ex-Muslim who converted to Christianity six years ago. The consensus among those in his village is that Bak'r is actually being tortured for proclaiming his faith, and that he is a victim of Arafat and the PA's religious campaign against non-Muslims.

"Bak'r is the latest victim in the PA's officially-sanctioned campaign to persecute ex-Muslims who have converted to the Christian faith in hopes of deterring other such conversions. According to Islamic law, converting to another religion is a crime punishable by death. The PA has been utilising brutal and repressive means to impose such cruel, antiquated pronouncements upon all of the Palestinian Arab population, even those not within its jurisdiction.

"Other ex-Muslim converts to Christianity have been routinely subjected to detentions, beatings, interrogations and threats, including Shak'r Saleh, who was held and tortured in a Jericho prison by Palestinian Security Services two years ago, before being released after the intervention of former US President Jimmy Carter, and others, on his behalf.

"We demand the immediate release of Muhammad Bak'r and guarantees of safety for him and his family. Further, we urge government and church leaders world-wide to condemn Arafat and his Palestinian Authority for this deplorable campaign of abuse against religious freedom and human rights. To avoid their own complicity with the PA's actions, the Western donor nations should sanction the PA by withholding funding, and conduct an immediate investigation into this and other violations of human rights in the PA.

For more information, please contact Stan Goodenough or David Parsons at: Tel: 02-5631418

Stan Goodenough
Middle East Digest
PO Box 1192
Jerusalem 91010, Israel

Tel: 5669823
email: meid@icej.org.il

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