A new crackdown is underway against Christians in Saudi Arabia, according to reports from several human rights monitors. Recently eight Protestants were arrested and punished, says the Rome-based Catholic news agency Asianews.
A US group, International Christian Concern, claims that the number of Christians detained may now exceed 100. It suggests a link between these actions and allegations about the desecration of the Qur'an at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre.
In the most widely documented case, the Saudi religious police, the Muttawa, arrested an evangelical Christian from India who was travelling in the country on a tourist visa. They seized a Bible and a set of addresses.
These contacts then led to the further detention of seven other members of a Protestant church group, the Assemblies of God.
One of those taken into custody was Vijay Kumar, aged 45, a migrant worker in Saudi Arabia since 1994, whose apartment was allegedly used to hold Christian meetings.
In Saudi Arabia freedom of religious expression is barred for all faiths apart from Islam. Public acts such as holding a Bible, wearing a cross, carrying a rosary or praying are outlawed.
In theory the Saudi authorities allow private devotions to non-Muslims, but the religious police often take a tougher line in practice.
On 23 April 2005, the Muttawa arrested 40 Pakistani nationals for celebrating a Catholic mass in a private house.
Out of a Saudi population of around 21.6 million people, Muslims make up 97.3 per cent of the total, while Christians constitute 3.7 per cent, almost all from India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Egypt.
Saudi Arabia's economy heavily depends on migrant workers, but although they are allowed to work, they are not allowed to profess their beliefs.
Some Asian human rights activists say that Western governments are reluctant to criticise mistreatment of minority groups in the country because of the alliance of the House of Saud with US policy in the region.