Strict enforcement of Sharia isn’t even popular in the Magic Kingdom.
By Donna Abu-Nasr for AP (thanks to Ruth King):
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia “” After the car stopped outside a Riyadh amusement park, two bearded men dragged the driver from behind the wheel and took the three women on a wild ride of more than an hour, bouncing over sidewalks and finally abandoning them on a darkened street.
The women at first thought they had been kidnapped by terrorists. But the two men said instead that they were religious police.
It might have gone down as just one more excess of zealousness by the forces charged with upholding Islamic modesty, except that Umm Faisal, the oldest of the three women, did something that is thought to be unprecedented in Saudi Arabia: She went to court.
Today, four years after the incident, the latest chapter of the legal battle being waged by this 50-year-old mother of five reopens before Riyadh’s Grievances Court, which handles damages suits for abuses by government and public figures.
The unusual publicity surrounding Umm Faisal’s story comes after two Saudi men died while in religious police custody “” one arrested for reportedly consuming alcohol, another for being alone with a woman not of his family.
Last week, a trial opened against three religious police officers and a fourth man in the death of Ahmed al-Bulaiwi, the man detained for being alone with a woman. Relatives demanded the death penalty against the defendants.
Taken together, the cases could undermine the authority of the force’s employer, the powerful, independent body called the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.
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