Saudi Woman Files First Case Against Religious Police


The unnamed woman is seeking compensation after she and her daughter were allegedly wrongfully arrested in a shopping centre car park in 2004 for "not wearing decent clothing," her lawyer Abderrahman al-Lahm said.

Women in Saudi Arabia must be covered from head to toe when they go out in public.

The religious policeman in question arrested the pair, commandeered the car from their driver and drove them to his headquarters where the already sick mother suffered "health complications," said Lahm.

The woman’s family is bringing the case before a civil court in Riyadh on Sunday after an Islamic court rejected the complaint, reportedly ruling that "a member of the religious police cannot be judged," Lahm said.

He said he hoped his client’s case would help consolidate the role of justice in defending individual freedoms and human rights.

The case comes after Al-Watan newspaper last month reported that attacks by the public against the 5,000-strong Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice were on the rise.

The newspaper partly attributed differing views over the role of the religious police, commonly known as Muttawa, to the changes undergone by Saudi society since the special force was founded several decades ago.

The interior ministry 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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