Saudi sentences foreigners for drinking, dancing

via www.keralakaumudi.com published on February 7, 2007

RIYADH: A Saudi Arabian court has convicted and sentenced 20 foreigners to receive lashes and spend several months in prison for attending a party where alcoholic drinks were served and men and women danced, a Saudi newspaper reported on Sunday.

The kingdom’s religious police arrested 433 foreigners, including more than 240 women, for attending the impudent’ party in Jiddah, the state-guided newspaper Okaz reported. It did not identify the foreigners, give their nationalities or say when the party took place.

Judge Saud Al Boushi sentenced the 20 to three to four month in prison and ordered them to receive an unspecified number of lashes. They have the right to appeal, the newspaper said.

The prosecutor general charged the 20 with drinking, arranging for impudent party, mixed dancing and shooting a video for the party,’ Okaz said.

The newspaper said because of the large number of detainees, several judges were assigned to try them in groups. The rest of the detainees are awaiting trial.

Saudi Arabia follows a strict interpretation of Islam under which it bans alcohol, meeting between unmarried men and women, women driving and people convicted of murder, drug trafficking, rape and armed robbery can be executed with a sword and in public as a deterrent.

The religious police, a force resented by many Saudis for interfering in their personal lives, enjoy wide and unchallenged powers. Its members roam public places, such as malls, markets and universities, looking for such infractions as unrelated men and women mingling in public, men skipping the five daily prayers and women with strands of hair showing from under their veil.

In May, the Interior Ministry took measures to restrict the powers of the religious police to just arresting suspects, because the police sometimes had held people incommunicado and insisted on taking part in ensuing investigations.

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