Saudi religious police told to curb their enthusiasm as new law curtails powers

Published January 30th, 2013 - 08:44 GMT
Religious police on the hunt for brightly colored nail polish or hand-holding.
Religious police on the hunt for brightly colored nail polish or hand-holding.

A new law passed by the Cabinet has curtailed the powers of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, said Sheikh Abdullatif Al-Asheikh, head of the commission (Haia).

“Once we had much expanded powers, but with the new law… some of these powers, such as interrogating suspects and pressing charges,” will be restricted to the police and public prosecution, Al-Asheikh told AFP.

The commission may still arrest those carrying out “flagrant offenses such as harassing women, consuming alcohol and drugs, blackmailing and the practice of witchcraft,” he said while talking about the new law.

However, the cases of such people will be referred to the police and brought to justice, as the Haia will no longer have the right to determine charges against them, he said.

The Haia will continue to prevent women from driving, ban public entertainment and force all businesses, from supermarkets to petrol stations, to close for prayers five times a day.

Al-Asheikh thanked Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah and Crown Prince Salman for their support to the organization to play a vital role in the service of the religion and society. “The new law is the outcome of work by a number of specialized panels.”

The commission remains an independent body under the new law, Al-Asheikh said, adding that it reports to the king. He said the Haia still has powers to follow up crimes and take the culprits to the court while protecting the rights of the accused. A committee of experts will be formed to prepare the executive bylaw.

 

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