Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia jails man for taking a woman to hospital

A Nigerian convert to Islam was jailed in Saudi Arabia after he helped a sick 63-year-old woman and was then accused by religious police of immoral behaviour, a newspaper reported on Monday [August 6].
Ibrahim Mohammad Lawal, a student of Islamic studies in Riyadh, took the woman, who is his neighbour, to hospital after learning that she needed medical attention, Arab News said.
After the woman returned home he went to check on her health and found three other women related to her there, the English-language daily quoted Lawal as saying.

Then up to five men identifying themselves as members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice arrived and took him and the three women visitors into custody, accusing him of being alone with his neighbour. He was later taken to prison, the paper said without elaborating on what happened to the three women.

Lawal's help for his neighbour "has landed him 50 days and counting behind bars", Arab News said.

The religious police, commonly known as Muttawa, enforce a strict Islamic moral code in ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia, where women are not allowed to mix with men other than their relatives. Complaints about excesses attributed to the 5 000-strong force have increasingly appeared in the local press in recent months. Last week, a court acquitted three members of the religious police and a policeman over the death of a man in their custody in the northwestern city of Tabuk. The victim had also been accused of associating with a woman who was not a relative.

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. However, Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz last month defended the Muttawa, accusing journalists of exaggerating recent abuse allegations.

6 August 2007

Source: AFP via Independent Online (South Africa), based on reports from Arab News (06/08/07)