'Missionaries' could face death in Libya

Feb. 18, 2013 at 9:06 AM

BENGHAZI, Libya, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- Libyan officials said they arrested four foreigners on suspicion of dispensing Christian literature, which is against the law and could carry the death penalty.

Preventative Security, an intelligence division of the defense ministry, arrested a Swedish-American, an Egyptian, a South African and a South Korean, all of whom have been in contact with their respective embassies, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported Sunday.

Authorities said the foreigners were missionaries suspected of having a local printer create pamphlets explaining Christianity. A law held over from the Moammar Gadhafi era says the act of proselytizing is a criminal offense and could be punishable by death.

Libyan lawyer and human rights activist Bilal Bettamer said missionaries should not try to spread their faith in a wholly Muslim country.

"It is disrespectful. If we had Christianity we could have dialogue, but you can't just spread Christianity," he said. "The maximum penalty is the death penalty. It's a dangerous thing to do."

Libya has no known Christian minority, and the only Christian churches in the country serve foreign residents, The Guardian reported.

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