Saudi takes steps to curb morality police powers


Newspapers reported on Friday and Saturday that the order, which has been distributed to state prosecutors, includes an explicit ban on extracting confessions and inspections of morality police offices to ensure no one is being held there.

The order follows previous efforts to regulate the activities of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, including a royal decree last year that they must deliver suspects to Interior Ministry police officers.

A source close to the affair told Reuters that this week’s order was not intended to be made public. Recent cases have caused embarrassment to the force, which has wide powers to enforce bans on drugs, alcohol and prostitution.

Saudi critics say the body, whose members intervene to stop unrelated men and women from mixing in public and sometimes interrogate people to check if their beliefs fit with Saudi Arabia’s Islamic orthodoxy, is an affront to civil rights.

Clerics say the group is key to ensuring the rule of Saudi Arabia’s austere form of Sunni Islam, often termed Wahhabism.

Four members are on trial for the death of a 50-year-old man who had been arrested for driving with an unrelated woman. A trial is also pending over the death of a 28-year-old man arrested with his family for possession of alcohol.

Okaz newspaper said on Saturday two members of the body have been sacked for questioning an Austrian pilgrim in Medina after the pilgrim filed a complaint with a government rights body.




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