Five Saudi men sentenced to 32 years in prison and 4,500 lashes for holding a Valentine’s Day party featuring “unrelated women, drinking and dancing”.
- The men were arrested by the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice
- All five have admitted the charges illegal seclusion with unrelated wives, dancing and drinking
- A judge decides the fate of the six women captured with the men
Five Saudi men have been sentenced to 32 years in prison and 4,500 lashes by a criminal court in Saudi Arabia – for holding a Valentine’s Day party.
The law-breaking men were caught in a rented roadhouse in the Al-Farouq area Buraydah Qassim Province and accused of partying, drinking and dancing with women who had nothing to do with them.
Police of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (CVPPV) drove the men together with the help of security patrols for their offenses along with six women on February 14.
Banned: Saudi men were banned from using camera phones for a period over concerns that men would use them to secretly photograph women and post them online without the subjects’ consent
The men have all admitted to the charges, which include illegal seclusion with unrelated women, dancing and drinking.
A judge will decide the fate of the six women.
The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice is the religious police or mutaween (meaning pious) of the Saudi Arabian government agency for enforcing Sharia within the Islamic nation.
In all, it has 3,500 to 4,000 police officers who enforce a strict religious code among the citizens.
Members patrol the streets checking dress codes, strict segregation of men and women, the prayer of salat by Muslims during prayer times, and other behaviors that they feel are commanded by Islam.
That mutaween (CVPPV) are known for sporting full beards and wearing their headscarves (ghutrah or shemagh) loosely without an agal, and are often from the lower classes of Saudi Arabia.
The body has wide-ranging powers to arrest and berate criminals and shut down businessesd are employed directly by the king. The organization’s 2013 budget was the equivalent of $390 million.
In a separate case Raif Badawia Saudi blogger, recently got into trouble with the authorities and faces 10 years in prison, a thousand lashes and a million riyal fine for “insulting Islam”.
Mr Badawi’ was arrested in June 2012 and charged with cybercrime and disobedience to his father – a crime in Saudi Arabia – in connection with his Saudi Liberal Network website.
The website contained articles criticizing high-ranking religious figures such as the Saudi Arabian Grand Mufti, according to Human Rights Watch.
He originally expected seven years in prison and 600 lashes, but an appeals court overturned that sentence and ordered a retrial.
Amnesty International called the new verdict “outrageous” and said Badawi was a “political prisoner”. His website has been closed since his first trial.
King Abdullah: The king uses a religious police force to enforce behavior that goes against strict Islamic rule, and this has even hit bloggers like Raif Badawi, right, who faces 10 years in prison for insulting Islam
Citizens of Saudi Arabia are constantly encouraged to inform others who are breaking the law.
Punishment for many crimes is severe, often involving beatings and humiliation, and foreigners are not exempt from arrest.
THE STRICT SHARIA LAW NOT TO BE BROKEN IN SAUDI ARABIA
- TThey prevent the population from participating in “frivolous” Western customs such as Valentine’s Day
- They ensure that drugs, including alcohol, are not trafficked
- They control whether women wear the abaya, a traditional all-enveloping black cloak
- They ensure that men and women spotted together in public are related
- They ensure that women do not smoke in public
- A ban on camera phones was enacted in 2004 but lifted later that same year
Middle East ally: David Cameron receives tribute from King Abdullah. According to Human Rights Watch, Saudi Arabia, a staunch Western ally in the Middle East, has a long history of suppressing free speech
Philip Luther, director of the Middle East and North Africa program at Amnesty International, called on the Saudi authorities to overturn the conviction of blogger Badawi.
“The decision to sentence Raif Badawi to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes is outrageous,” he said.
Human Rights Watch said Saudi Arabia, a staunch Western ally in the Middle East, has a long history of suppressing free speech.