RIYADH – A top Saudi cleric and judge sought Sunday to tone down a controversial religious edict sanctioning the killing of owners of television stations that air “debauchery,” saying they could only be put to death after a judicial process.
If the owners of television networks that air “depravation and debauchery” are not deterred by lesser punishments, they would be referred to justice which issues its rulings in keeping with the laws in force in the kingdom, Sheikh Saleh al-Luhaidan told state-run Saudi television.
“They may be killed through a judicial (ruling),” he added.
Luhaidan, who heads the Supreme Judicial Council, the highest judicial body in ultra-conservative Muslim Saudi Arabia, sparked controversy by saying on the radio that the owners of television networks broadcasting “immoral” programmes may be killed.
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“It is lawful to kill… the apostles of depravation… if their evil cannot be easily removed through simple sanctions,” Luhaidan said, according to excerpts of the remarks broadcast on Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya satellite television on Friday.
Luhaidan acknowledged on Sunday that his remarks had caused an outcry, but put that down to what he said was a wrong interpretation of his views, insisting he had said that death would be through a judicial process.
Saudi Arabia applies a rigorous doctrine of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism, and its Islamic courts hand down death sentences for a series of offences including murder, rape and drug trafficking.
The oil-rich kingdom’s grand mufti recently issued a fatwa, or religious edict, describing a highly popular television soap as “un-Islamic,” but Luhaidan’s remarks went further than any made by hardline clerics against entertainment programmes seen as immoral.