Saudi lawyer challenges kingdom's religious police

Appeals sentence that exonerated Mutawwa'in from killing man suspected of distributing alcohol.

Mutawwain 88 (photo credit:)
Mutawwain 88
(photo credit: )
A Saudi lawyer is appealing a sentence that exonerated the kingdom's religious police from killing a man during his arrest. A court in Riyadh last November acquitted two members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (CPVPV) of causing the death of a Saudi citizen during a raid on his home in May 2007. The citizen, Suleiman A-Hurei'si, was suspected of distributing alcohol from his home, a practice prohibited in the strictly Muslim kingdom. The lawyer, 'Abd A-Rahman A-Lahim, said Al-Hurei'si died after being beaten by the religious police, also known as the Mutawwa'in. The court originally cleared the two policemen for lack of sufficient evidence. A-Lahim is appealing that decision, arguing that the Saudi judicial authorities should implement the terms of a United Nations convention against torture that the kingdom ratified in 1997. Saudi Arabia practices a strict form of Sunni Islam called Wahhabism, and religious conduct is enforced by the religious police, which works for the CPVPV. According to the United States State Department's 2007 Report on International Religious Freedom, there have been charges of harassment, abuse and killings by the Mutawwa'in, and this has caused concern in Western countries. In response, the Saudi government has allowed for unprecedented coverage and criticism of the Mutawwa'in's activities and the Consultative Council has voted against expanding its jurisdiction.