Philippine officials in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) are extending assistance to 12 overseas Filipino workers arrested in Riyadh for congregating in a religious activity last weekend.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh reported the 12 were arrested by muttawas (religious police).
"The Embassy is closely monitoring the case," the DFA said in its website.
Citing a report from Philippine Charge d'Affaires Ezzedin Tago, the DFA said 12 OFWs were arrested with a French priest when they allegedly held a Mass in a estiraha (a place for special occasions) in the Nadeem District on October 1.
Upon learning of the incident, Embassy representatives learned the OFWs were brought to the Rawdah Police Station.
"They made representations to the police that the OFWs' cases be brought into the prosecutor's office for evaluation if they can be eligible for kaffala (temporary release) to their employers," the DFA said.
Last October 2, 11 of those arrested were released to the custody of their employers, but the 12th remained in jail.
Embassy representatives are currently negotiating with the employer of the remaining OFW in jail to facilitate his release.
Conducting religious activities of other faiths other than Islam is strictly prohibited in Saudi Arabia.
The Union of Catholic Asian News, citing a statement from militant OFW advocacy group Migrante Middle East, said the 12 were among the around 100 expatriates arrested at the religious service.
Migrante-ME coordinator John Leonard Monterona said the Filipinos were attending a “Christian religious service" when religious police staged a raid.
“The Filipinos pleaded for help for their detained companions," he said.
“We would like to remind our fellow overseas Filipino workers to respect the cultural prohibitions imposed by the host country, specifically performing religious worship other than Islam. We are ‘foreigners’ of third class category here in Saudi Arabia," he added. — LBG, GMANews.TV