The Commission’s Been At It Again

Those evil buffoons, the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (the Ministry of Licentiousness and Lasciviousness, the C-Men) have been at it again. Not content with beating suspects to death at their headquarters and making a mockery of Saudi justice, not content with scaring old men to death who are just trying to support a large family, not content with abusing women in Riyadh, then ignoring the court and not content with pursuing “suspects” so quickly that they have motor accidents and are killed that way, it seems now that the buffoons – the evil Keystone Kops of Saudi society – now go out cruising and looking for a fight like any old football hooligan used to.

The Arab News on 28 April reported on Undercover Officer Complains of Mistreatment by Vice Cops
which detailed some young blokes being slapped around by the C-Men for doing, well, nothing really.

“We were in Thumama at around 3 a.m., Thursday morning, having fun and joking around, when one of us spotted a commission jeep pass by,” the officer, who requested anonymity, told Arab News.

He said he and his four colleagues were just like any other guys going to Thumama to vent out on a weekend night without the intention of harming any families or looking for trouble.

“A colleague said in a loud voice ‘guys, it’s the Haya’a (commission)!’” he continued. “But we were doing nothing wrong. We did not even have soda pop bottles or play any loud music for them to consider that we were doing something wrong.”

According to the officer, the commission members pulled up in a off-road vehicle bearing the commission’s logo. One commission member accused one of the campers of calling them dogs, then picked out the youngest member of the group, Rami Al-Amri, 18, and began slapping him.

“One of the men said: ‘I’ll teach you who the Haya’a is. We are the government’,” Al-Amri told Arab News. The commission members allegedly proceeded to verbally abuse the campers and impugn their character. Al-Amri claimed that the commission member that was being physically abusive threatened to jail him for three months.

Gee – you gotta watch those soda bottles and music! Really – it is time the Kingdom got rid of these buffoons.

Mecca Police Busy

The police in the Saudi city of Makkah have been very busy lately. The Arab News reports that

police patrols in Makkah have dealt with 10,744 cases and made 8,068 arrests between Jan. 10 and April 21 this year, according to figures released by the Makkah police. Of those arrested 6,508 were suspected of being involved in various types of crime, 489 were charged with robbery, 676 were arrested for not carrying valid resident permits or for running away from their sponsors, 250 were drug-peddlers and 126 people were wanted for previous crimes.

Police also confiscated six rifles, 10 revolvers, five machine guns, 457 cartridges of live ammunition, two air guns, 1,825 Captagon pills and 100 kilograms of other types of drugs. They also seized 6,437 vehicles over the period.

This is, of course, the Holy city that Hajj and Umrah pilgrims make their way to. Of course, the statistic I find most interesting is that 6,508 were “suspected of being involved in various types of crime” however only 1,541 were actually charged with anything – just under 20% of those arrested.

Saudi Blogger is Released

The Arab News reported in a piece called “Blogger Case Exaggerated: Prince Ahmed” that Saudi blogger, Fouad Al-Farhan’s case had been exaggerated by the press.

“The issue (of Al-Farhan) was not that important as it represented the mistake committed by a person on himself. A man who commits a mistake should bear its result,” the Saudi Press Agency quoted the prince as saying.

Yeah – right! He made a mistake, presumably by saying something that the government didn’t agree with – so it is his own fault that he is detained without charge for four months. Let’s hear it for fairness in Saudi Arabia.

Al-Huraisi Retrial to Begin Next Tuesday

It has been a while since I have written about those evil buffoons here in Saudi Arabia, the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (or as I prefer to think of them, the Ministry of Licentiousness and Lasciviousness – the C-Men). However, they have been in the news here again.

I mentioned the killing of Salman Al-Huraisi by the C-Men in Thomo’s Hole before, and then mentioned the trial of the apparently guilty members (well, they pleaded guilty then recanted that plea under oath in court). You can read those posts here and here.

The Arab News reported on 2 April that a retrial into the death of Al-Huraisi will begin next Tuesday in the Riyadh General Court. You may remember that the C-Men burst commando style into Al-Huraisi’s home as he was apparently a bootlegger and maybe drug pusher. He was beaten to death by two C-Men later at their headquarters.

The Arab News noted in relation to the opening of this case that,

On Nov. 28 last year, the General Court acquitted the two commission members on charges of killing Al-Huraisi, who worked as a security guard, after taking him into custody in a raid on his home in May. The Cassation Court rejected the ruling after identifying several errors, including the judges’ failure to hear eyewitness testimonies.

“As many as seven members of the commission will testify in the new trial, which will begin next week,” said Yahya Al-Huraisi, one of the two lawyers representing the dead man’s family.

Al-Huraisi said the three judges in the original trial relied only on written testimonies taken by the General Investigation and Prosecution Board.

As far as questioning Al-Huraisi went, the autopsy report said that “Al-Huraisi died after suffering a severe blow to his head causing a 6 cm deep fracture to his skull”.

This particularly brutal beating resulted in new rules being issued by the Interior Ministry to prevent the religious police from taking suspects to commission centers. The new regulations require that the C-Men hand detainees into police custody. Incidentally, the C-Men are not supposed to engage in car chases either – but more on that in another post later.

Airport Security? Cods!

I’ve been travelling. I left Saudi Arabia on Sunday night and flew to Dubai, Bangkok, Sydney, then back to Bangkok and now I am sitting in Dubai prior to flying back to Saudi Arabia. So, that is five days, two airlines and four airports, twice over. The flights were Emirates (VERY nice airline) from Saudi Arabia to Dubai to Bangkok (and back) and British Airways (VERY old airline) from Bangkok to Sydney and back.

So, what’s the beef with security I hear you say? Simply that is is not consistent and, to be honest, in the many places you would expect it to be good, its not. Lets take a simple example – the personal body screening/search.

Walk into Jeddah International Airport and you have to have all your bags X-rayed, including carry-on bags. Then you can check in. After check in, then you get to have your carry-on bags X-rayed again and you get a personal screening as well (“please empty your pockets and walk through here”). I passed whilst wearing my shoes and my belt. First and most obvious thing, as the Middle East is a hotbed of terrorism (if we are to believe the politicians in the UK, US and Australia) why not do the body search when the person is entering the airport and save the extra search? Anyway, I’m not on the O&M committee at the airport so we’ll leave that.

Fly to Dubai – the instruments served with the meal are all metal – knife, fork and spoon. Arrive Dubai and go through another search (shoes and belt on, pockets empty – passed). Catch flight to Bangkok. Metal implements for eating with are again supplied. Arrive Bangkok and inside the airport I buy a toothbrush and toothpaste pack – the pack is in a clear plastic bag but it is a different bag to the one that airport security wants so the toothpaste has to be taken out of one plastic bag and put into another plastic bag. All items X-Rayed again (but this time laptop must be taken from its bag and X-Rayed separately). Shoes and belt left on and passed screening.

Head to the gate to board the flight. There is another security search there where the staff, equipped with latex gloves, check everything that is in the bag again. Hel-lo – it’s all just been X-Rayed and searched just 50 metres away. I must be honest here too – to a Thai security type person I am not a threatening character – goofy grin and more fulsome figure plus big hairy ears means the Thai security folks see me as a gentle person so the extra check is the security person saying “laptop in the bag?” and then letting me go without really looking at anything. Anyway, it is a requirement for flights into Australia because, basically, the Australian government does not believe that security officials can do a security check using technology, so must have more of the same officials doing the check again without technology. Anyone see anything stupid here?

Board the flight and have plastic utensils styled in a tasteful imitation silver colour supplied for the in-flight meals. Understand that it is hard plastic and if snapped is more dangerous than a metal bread and butter knife. Oh well on to Sydney.

OK – bummed around in Oz for two days getting a visa approved (no security check at the Saudi Embassy in Canberra – but no visitors for the last six days either). Head back to the airport to fly back and get to the security check. Send laptop through separately, belt and shoes left on and pass screening. Walk past a security gentleman who asks “excuse me sir we are performing random tests on passengers, would you mind coming here for some checking please?”

You answer “yes I mind because it is not random – I’ve been selected before and I watched you stand there and let about 30 other people go past”. In any case, it seems that when you answer a question honestly the security guys get all uppity and hurt and seem disappointed when they can’t find anything. Surely the sniffing for explosives could be done as the bags are being X-rayed – then everything would be checked – not just the bags of us rotund Middle Eastern looking gentlemen!

Anyway, I don’t have a choice so I stand there whilst he checks to see if my bag has been in contact with explosives. It hasn’t so I am allowed to pass.

Arrive in Bangkok after using the nice grey plastic knives and forks. Head off to the Emirates flight and after a single search (laptop out of bag, shoes and belt on) I board the aircraft. Metal utensils for the meal. Arrive in Dubai where the security check there this time is “shoes and belts off please”. So, laptop, still in bag, is X-rayed along with my shoes and belt – everything passes the check.

Now, the only other security check I have to go through is the compulsory X-Ray of everything by the customs guys in Jeddah looking to see if you are smuggling pornography because these guys have not heard of technology, the Internet or peer-to-peer file swapping. They seem to think that pornography smugglers are going to be so stupid as to have a DVD in their bag with the title “Debbie Does Dallas – Master Copy” written on the outside of it. They will examine the DVD’s attached to the cover of the PC User and APC magazines I have been reading on the flight, however, and will interrogate me about their content before letting me go through with them.

So, what does all this tell me? Basically no one really has any idea about airport security. I should add that in Bangkok I watched as the staff servicing the aircraft went through very thorough checking. There are about 20 or so cleaners for a 747-400. Before they enter the aircraft they are frisked by security officers and when they exit with their plastic bags full of garbage, they are frisked again. The security officers then go through and check every bag of rubbish to make sure things have not been hidden there. This does not happen in Sydney.

So, where is the best airport security? Without a doubt, I think the Bangkok security is better than either Middle East or Sydney – if for no other reason that they have thought it through and that I can be checked without getting half undressed. In Sydney there is only that one check – although arrogantly the Australian authorities (or is it Qantas and British Airways?) require a second meaningless check on passengers boarding flights from overseas with an arrival destination of an Australian city.

I am all for security at airports and on aircraft – I would just like to see some consistency and some efficiency.

Walk Like An Egyptian … To The Buffet

I would not have believed it had I not seen it. Mind you, I spent time in Cairo and I can’t remember seeing it there. However, here in Saudi Arabia I can now tell the Egyptian guests at the hotel restaurant.

It is the buffet.

Spending a lot of time in the restaurant at the hotel (like almost every night) we get to see lots of different guests. The interesting ones were the Egyptians. They come to the restaurant to eat from the buffet (soup, salads, main courses and dessert). They are the only guests I have seen who walk straight in (not worrying about selecting a table), and fetch a bowl of soup. They then bring this back to a table, put it down and head back to the salad bar. They then load up a plate with salad and bring that back to the table. Then it is back to the hot foods and load another plate up and carry that back to the table. At this point there is a variation as some now will sit down and proceed to eat from all three plates whilst others will select some cakes from the dessert area before sitting down to eat.

Apparently, according to the locals, it is only Egyptian guests who are like this at a buffet. So, the walk is a constant traipsing between food and table.

Vice Cops Unearth Magical Objects Hidden in Graves

I forgot to mention. The other day (well , 3 days ago to be exact) the Arab News published a piece about the Vice Cops Unearthing Magical Object Hidden in Graves. This ties in rather nicely with a piece I had here back in October called The C-Men Do Some Good.

Now don’t think that this is a developed country here. There are still problems with people marrying someone from a different tribe and there is a legal system that does not recognise any precedents. This takes the cake, however. The Arab News reported that:

The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice [they are the evil buffoons I call the C-Men or the Minsitry of Licentiousness and Lasciviousness] discovered 23 black magic works buried in two graves in Al-Aqeefa district of Yanbu. A citizen had alerted the commission on the location of the black magic tokens and they were successfully pulled out of the graves.Ibrahim Al-Jabbari, the local director of the commission, said the removed items had been placed around the heads and legs of the corpses. Among the items were knives and pieces of paper where magical spells were written.

Al-Jabbari said in all the commission found more than 23 black magic works hidden inside deserted graves. The spells were written on knives and papers wrapped inside knots, next to the dead bodies.

A sorcerer who had repented told the commission’s members about 11 magical works hidden inside graves.

Also, a citizen passing by the graves found another eight magical works by coincidence. “I immediately reported to the commission after I found the magic works while walking between graves,” said a citizen who wished to remain anonymous.

OK. So what I want to know from this is how did this passing citizen find another eight magical works by coincidence when these are buried with corpses? What was this citizen doing?

Authorities mobilized their security personnel to guard local cemeteries from further acts of dark magic. Saad Al-Subhi, a cemetery worker, said, “We have intensive security all over the cemetery and if anyone tried to sneak into the cemetery he will get caught.”

Hmm. I am impressed. Obviously security is not that good if at least 2 lots of objects were brought into the cemetary and buried with bodies.

Being the sceptic that I am, I cannot help but think that this is another concocted news release from the C-Men attempting to show their value to Saudi society at a time that they face criticism for the poor performance of their operatives.

Al-Huraisi Killing Case: Court Clears Two C-Men

I noted before that I would keep track of what happened with the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice members on trial for the brutal killing of a suspect under questioning by the membes of the Commission. To recap, the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (C-Men or as I prefer to think of them, the Ministry of Lasciviousness and Licentiousness), raided a house compound in Riyadh commando style in May this year. They broke into the house and arrested many people in there for the possession and sale of alcohol and narcotics.

Later, at the C-Men’s headquarters, one of the prisoners, Salman Al-Huraisi was found dead after having been beaten by a metal rod, blows to his head being so severe that they split the head open and caused one of his eyes to “pop out” of its socket. A police investigation, including the questioning of members of the Commission, found that two members had been responsible for the death of Al-Huraisi.

This went to court and in the lead-up process, the Commission tried noting that the members involved were not, in fact, members of the Commission, then they tried to pay “blood money” in advance to the family to drop the charges and even went so far as to say to the family that the Commission would drop the alcohol and narcotics charges if the family would drop the murder charges.

You can read the previous report to this in the entry here of Al-Huraisi Killing Case: Commission Members Deny All Charges which links back to earlier entries. Remember that there are witnesses to the beating, the beating occurred in the Commission’s offices and that the police reports laid the blame on these members. If that was not enough, investigation of the matter was also made by the General Investigation and Prosecution Authority (GIPA – sort of the equivalent of the Crown Prosecutor) and the Governate of Riyadh, both these bodies also finding the men responsible for the death of Salman Al-Huraisi. The men pleaded not guilty. Read on for the next instalment of this.

In yesterday’s Arab News under the title of Court Clears Two Commission Members of Wrongdoing, the paper noted that the judges in this case dismissed the charges on Wednesday in the Riyadh High Court.The C-Men’s lawyer, Yussel Al-Nuaidan said

[the court in Riyadh] acquitted the two members of the Commission of the charge of being directly responsible for the death of Al-Huraisi, for lack of sufficient evidence.

The two C-Men on trial had originally confessed to the judges that they had taken part in the raid and that they beat the suspect causing his death. Then, in a later session they retracted the earlier confession, but the retraction was done under oath. The judges’ ruling was made after listenening to the testimony of eyewitnesses. These eyewitnesses were also C-Men and they confirmed that the two defendants had entered Al-Huraisi’s house with a metal object. These eyewitnesses confirmed the previously confessed series of events.

The judges’ found that trial could not continue as there was not sufficient evidence provided by the attorney representing the deceased’s family. They also noted that the testimonies from eyewitnesses were “not sufficient.”

The Arab News published a section from the ruling, noting:

[The judges mentioned] five reasons in which the three judges have stated to dismiss the case:

  • That the testimonies of the eyewitnesses cannot be accepted because they said Commission members cannot testify against their colleagues;
  • That the two defendants later retracted their confessions;
  • That the testimonies of other Commission members in the case cannot be presented as evidence by the attorney representing the family;
  • That family members have testified that the two defendants had beaten the deceased; and
  • That the testimonies from the two defendants in their earlier confession did not mention that they had beaten the deceased in his head, which is considered the fatal blow which caused the death.

The case will now be transferred to the Cassation Court where judges will either uphold the Riyadh Court’s decision or ask for a re-trial. According to the attorney representing the family of the deceased, Yahya Al-Huraisi, the two Commission members had asked the judges to be released.

Whilst this case has not received the same international attention as the Girl from Qatif case, it is a further example of the lack of any effective system of justice in the Kingdom.

Of course, justice the word is a word coming from Middle English through the Anglo-French justise, from Latin justitia, from justus and is therefore an old Roman concept not an Arabic one.

More on the Qatif Girl

Saudi Arabia’s Arab News (the English language paper) has gone strangely quiet on this, even as CNN interviews their staff. No mention has been made in the Arab News that Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, has called for a judicial review of the whole sentencing of the girl and who noted that:

There are problems like this in the justice system of every country, even America [indeed, given the number of prisoners being freed by access to DNA evidence that was not available at the time of their trial I can well agree with him here] and this matter is not finalised yet. We know hope that the judicial review will bring in the correct verdict for justice in this case.

The way this was spoken on the news clip suggested almost that he was directing the way the appeal should go.

In any case, the Arab News has gone quiet, even as their reporters were being interviewed on CNN. To be  fair, the reporter interviewed (and I have forgotten her name I will admit) did correct CNN on air, and CNN left that in the news clip as well.

One thing that is always a worry in the Kingdom here is the effect that the wealthy and powerful have on things, even the juducuary it seems. The first thought about this is the light sentencing originally given to rapers and the fact that the court sentenced the woman to any penalty.

This case has really opened a lot of discussion here with the woman’s lawyer appearing on Lebanese TV  presenting his side of the case against an ex-judge. One of the things the ex-judge pointed out was that the court was trying to protect the husbands honour, especially as the woman had supposedly been in a private place with an unrelated man. The woman’s husband then telephoned the show and basically said the judges were wrong.

The CNN  report noted:

A Saudi court will review the case of a teenage gang rape victim sentenced to jail and flogging after she was convicted of violating the country’s strict sex segregation laws, the foreign minister said Tuesday.

The remarks by Prince Saud al-Faisal, made in the United States and carried by the official Saudi Press Agency, were the latest in response to a salvo of international condemnation of Saudi judicial authorities’ handling of the case.

It was also a sharp turn from a statement Saturday in which the Saudi Justice Ministry condemned the 19-year-old woman as an adulteress who had allegedly confessed to cheating on her husband. She was raped by seven men and then sentenced to six months prison and 200 lashes.

The CNN report further noted that:

Justice in Saudi Arabia is administered by a system of religious courts and judges appointed by the king on the recommendation of the Supreme Judicial Council. Those courts and judges have complete discretion to set sentences, except in cases where Sharia outlines a punishment, such as capital crimes.

That means that no two judges would likely hand down the same sentence for similar crimes. A rapist, for instance, could receive anywhere from a light or no sentence to death, depending on the judge’s discretion.

I always thought the Sharia penalty for rape was a sentence of death.

More on Saudi Justice

It seems that the Ministry of Justice has been stung to make comment about the ruling in the Qatif Girl rape case. See New Ministry Statement on Qatif Case in the Arab News (also being reported on CNN amongst other places).

Seems the official release from the Ministry of Justice notes that the woman and man were not accosted at the mall but rather in a dark area near the beach where the woman’s clothes were on the ground. This, of course, was too much for the seven men discovering her so they immediately raped her.

The woman was not married but rather engaged at this time. However, the court felt that what happened was per and her companions fault as well, hence the increased penalty on her (still seems like she is being penalised for being raped – really, I can see now where the old Mad Mufti of Australia must have got is religious interpretations from).

So, it appears now as though it was all the woman’s fault. Well, except for the fact that the Ministry of Justice are now contradicting the police reports about this crime that noted that the woman and man were abducted from the shopping mall and that there had been no breaking of law with regards to unrelated men and women being in a private place together.

It appears as though the Ministry of Justice is using the same press agent as the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. I just can’t believe this.