10/31/2007, 00.00
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For the first time ever religious police on trial for homicide

Two members of the powerful “Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice” are accused of having beaten a man to death in whose home a “commando style” search was carried out apparently revealing drugs and alcohol.

Riyadh (AsiaNews) – The trial of two members of the powerful “Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice” the official title for the Saudi religious police or muttawa, began at the Higher Court in Riyadh yesterday.  The two are charged with having beaten to death Sulaiman Al-Huraisi in his home, during a commission raid looking for alcohol. They are also accused of arresting female members for suspicion, without the presence of women officers or female representatives.

The official Arab News agency specified that the attorney representing the family was a “private” lawyer and was not affiliated to the commission or any other government agency.

The incident took place in the capital: over 18 commission members, took part in the “commando style” raid on Sulaiman Al-Huraisi’s house in late May on the suspicion that there were drugs and alcohol to be found. According to the muttawa, bottles of alcohol and drugs were found during the search resulting in the arrest of the entire family and their relatives who lived in other apartments in the same building.  Once brought to the local prison Al-Huraisi died.  The autopsy revealed serve beatings as the cause of death.

At the end of the first sitting, the High Court refused conditional bail for the two and set November 6th for the next sitting.

A statement from the Governorate of Riyadh mentioned that the trial was just one of three cases currently in session regarding the death of Salman Al-Huraisi. There is another case about the “abuse of authority” by the commission currently being heard in the Court of Grievances in Riyadh. Commission officers who took part in the raid will be held accountable for violations that allegedly took place during the raid. Relatives of the deceased are being tried in connection to possession of narcotics and alcohol that was found in the house during the raid

But beyond the conclusions of the individual cases underway, what is notable in is the fact that the charges are being brought against the powerful Commission, within Saudi Arabia.  In the past the muttawa has been accused, among other things, of detaining non Muslims in prison, guilty of praying or of being in possession of religious materials, without recourse to a proper trial, or laying official charges.


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