Last Updated: Mon Nov 01, 2010 19:50 pm (KSA) 16:50 pm (GMT)

Saudi religious police cleared of fatal beating

The death occured in Riyadh in May (File)
The death occured in Riyadh in May (File)

A Saudi court on Wednesday cleared two members of the religious police of charges of causing the death of a man during a raid on his home in May for lack of sufficient evidence, a lawyer said.

The court in Riyadh "acquitted the two members of the Commission (for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice) of the charge of being directly responsible for the death of Suleiman al-Huraisi, for lack of sufficient evidence," the commission's lawyer Yussef al-Nuqaidan told AFP.

Commission members stormed the home of the 28-year-old man in the capital after they suspected him of distributing alcohol, which is banned in the kingdom.

Nuqaidan said the court cleared the two defendants because "the testimonies of the witnesses brought by the plaintiff, who is the dead man's brother, are not credible."

He said the court also dismissed a forensic report stating that the victim was badly beaten, because "while no one denies that beating was the cause of death, the question is: who beat who?"

Nuqaidan said that during the raid, "the (dead) man and many members of his family, who were carrying big knives and sharp instruments, resisted the Commission members, and things got confused."

Hence, it is not possible to state categorically that Huraisi's beating by the religious police, "which was aimed at controlling him," was the cause of death, he added.

The lawyer said the plaintiff now has 30 days to contest the ruling in the same court, which would then refer the challenge to the Higher Judicial Council. The council, the highest tribunal, can either confirm the ruling or order a retrial.

The religious police have recently been investigated over a number of deaths that occurred while they raided homes or kept people in custody.

In July, three of them, as well as a member of the regular police, were cleared of causing the death of a man held for questioning in the northwestern city of Tabuk in May for allegedly associating with a woman who was not a relative.

The Commission is a government body whose mission is to uphold moral values and social discipline in accordance with the Islamic values.
Members act in cooperation with the regular police force to make arrests and conduct investigations.

A 2006 report by Saudi's Shura Council Committee for Islamic, Judicial and Human Rights Affairs noted that the Commission had conducted thousands of raids related to beliefs, worship, morality, narcotics, literature, commercial establishments, alcohol and others, Saudi English daily Arab News reported.

The Saudi Ministry of Interior issued a decree in May 2006 aimed at reining in the Muttawa by requiring them not to interrogate detained suspects, as they had previously done, but to hand them over to the regular police instead.

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