American courts have for the first time granted political asylum to two West Bank evangelical Christians on the grounds of religious persecution. And more West Bank Christians are about to file asylum requests in American courts.

The courts – one in Chicago, and the other in North Carolina – accepted the asylum-seekers’ claims that the Palestinian Authority was persecuting Christian evangelicals, after the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service reversed its earlier skepticism and endorsed their claim. The two asylum-seekers – who won’t allow their names to be published, for fear of PA retaliation against relatives still in the territories – are both converts from Islam to Christianity, who had practiced their new faith in secret.

Meanwhile, Muhammad Bak’r, a West Bank convert to Christianity who had been in a PA prison since June, was released on bail in late February. The PA accused Bak’r of selling land to Jews, though sources close to Bak’r insist the real reason for his imprisonment was his activity as a Christian missionary.

Bak’r says he was tortured in prison, at one point hung by his hands from the ceiling for two consecutive days. His release followed intervention by the Norwegian government.