International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that two men accused of helping a young woman flee Saudi Arabia after her conversion to Christianity were sentenced to prison terms and lashes with a whip by a Saudi court on Sunday. The case comes weeks after an independent U.S. government advisory body listed Saudi Arabia among the top violators of religious freedom.
A Lebanese Christian man was sentenced to six years in prison and 300 lashes and a Saudi man was sentenced to two years and 200 lashes by a court in Khobar, a city in eastern Saudi Arabia, for their involvement in a Saudi woman’s conversion to Christianity and her escape abroad, Reuters reported. The men, who worked with the young woman known as Maryam at an insurance company, were arrested last July after a complaint was filed by her father. Maryam fled to Sweden several months ago and is reportedly applying for asylum.
The case began when Maryam appeared on a YouTube video last July announcing her conversion to Christianity, which “created a stir in the Kingdom,” the Saudi Gazette reported. Maryam said she was “raised to hate Judaism and Christianity but fell in love with the religions after she found peace in Christianity,” the English-language daily reported in July. Maryam embraced Christianity after hearing God tell her in a dream that Jesus is His son, according to the Gazette.
Abandoning Islam, also known as apostasy, and proselytizing are illegal under Saudi law. Judges have authority to determine the offender’s punishment in accordance to their interpretation of the Kingdom’s Sharia code of Islamic law, which permits the death penalty for apostates. Hmood al-Khalidi, the lawyer representing Maryam’s family, expressed satisfaction with the men’s severe verdict.