Dubai frees missionaries

Dubai - Three young American missionaries arrested for distributing Christian compact discs and videos on the streets of the Gulf emirate of Dubai have left the country, the US embassy said.

"The three US citizens have left the country," an embassy spokesperson in Abu Dhabi told AFP, without elaborating.

There was no immediate comment from Emirati authorities.

The Americans, aged 26, 28 and 30, were arrested last month on one of Dubai's busiest streets while handing out the material to passers-by.

All three had been released on bail, but risked five to 10 years in jail if found guilty of promoting Christianity.

The trio were paid volunteers to an Arizona-based evangelical Christian group called Frontiers, whose website said its "passion is to glorify God by planting reproducing churches among unreached Muslim peoples.

"Our sole purpose is to establish vital, worshipping, witnessing congregations of transformed Muslims," the website proclaimed.

"We are committed to planting the church among all Muslim people, whether or not their countries grant missionary visas and/or permit disciple-making ministry. We believe our generation will witness an unprecedented turning to Christ in the Muslim world."

Public facilities for Christian worship are permitted in the UAE but Christians are strictly forbidden from evangelising among Muslims under Islamic law. - Sapa-AFP