The victim, whom the muttawa targeted for being seen with an unrelated woman, “went into custody a healthy man. He got out in a funeral procession.”
By Donna Abu-Nasr for the Associated Press:
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – A judge on Saturday postponed the trial of three members of Saudi Arabia’s religious police for their alleged involvement in the death of a man arrested after being seen with a woman who was not his relative.
The judge did not set a new date for the trial, the first of its kind in this conservative nation, but assured the man’s family the postponement was just procedural, according to a family representative.
Ahmed al-Bulaiwi, a retired border patrol guard in his early 50s, died in custody shortly after his June 1 arrest by religious police in the northern city of Tabuk.
“He went into custody a healthy man. He got out in a funeral procession,” his cousin, Audah al-Bulaiwi, who is representing the family in court, told The Associated Press by phone from Tabuk.
The police became suspicious after they observed the woman getting into his car
near an amusement park, according to accounts published by the local media. Under the kingdom’s rules, a woman cannot drive, and can only go out in public with her father, brother, son or husband.
An investigation showed that al-Bulaiwi, who supplemented his pension by working as a driver, was asked by the family of the woman, who was in her 50s, to drive her home, according to press reports.
Al-Bulaiwi’s cousin said the trial was postponed because the documents he presented to the judge were incomplete. While Saudis are allowed to appoint lawyers, many
choose to send a family representative instead.
A statement by the governorate of Tabuk this week did not say how long the
trial would last, what the charges against the men were or what punishment they could face if found guilty.
Still, the case was seen as a major setback for the Commission for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, a feared government body that employs
the religious police. It has long been resented for intimidating people and meddling into the most minute aspects of their lives.
The religious police, informally known as the muttawa, patrol public places, including malls, to ensure that women are covered in the mandatory black abaya, or cloak, that the sexes do not mix in public, that shops close five times a day for prayers and that the men go to the mosque and worship.
The muttawa don’t wear uniforms, but are recognizable by their long beards and
their robes, shorter than the ones normally worn by Saudi men.
The Tabuk governorate said al-Bulaiwi died as a result of a severe drop in blood pressure and failure of the respiratory system.
Those tend to accompany death. Bet his heart stopped, too.