Tue, Aug 14, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Man `dies of fright' in hands of Saudi religious authorities

AFP , RIYADH

A Bangladeshi man died of fright after being arrested by Saudi Arabia's controversial religious police for washing a car instead of praying, a local newspaper reported on Sunday.

The unnamed man died last week in the holy city of Medina after being detained by members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, al-Jazirah reported.

The Arabic daily said the man "convulsed in fear after he was arrested, leading to a drop in his blood pressure and causing his death."

commission

The man was arrested by members of the commission, commonly known as the Muttawa, for washing a car during a time of day when he should have been at prayer, the paper said.

The Muttawa enforce a strict Islamic moral code in the ultra-conservative kingdom, and are increasingly being criticized by the public for perceived abuses.

The Muttawa beat a group of Iraqi pilgrims holding British and US citizenship in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, a Saudi Shiite news Web site said on Aug. 6.

`infidels'

The Shiite news Web site rasid.net said the Muttawa beat the pilgrims with sticks after accusing them of being "infidels" as they circled the holy Kaaba stone at the Grand Mosque, Islam's holiest site.

The head of the Muttawa, Ibrahim al-Ghaith, said the Bangladeshi man "fainted" while being transported in a vehicle and that doctors found no signs of "assault or torture" on his body, al-Watan newspaper reported.

Three commission members and policeman who witnessed the incident were questioned before being completely exonerated, it added.

Complaints about excesses attributed to the 5,000-strong force have become increasingly common in the local press in recent months.

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