3 held in Qatif judge kidnap case

Updated 02 January 2017
0

3 held in Qatif judge kidnap case

JEDDAH: Saudi police have arrested three people over the kidnapping of a judge in Qatif, authorities said on Sunday.
A hunt has been launched to nab the other three suspects, according to the Saudi Ministry of Interior.
Ministry security spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki said investigations are ongoing into the kidnapping of inheritance and endowments circuit Judge Sheikh Mohammad Al-Jirani.
The judge was kidnapped from near his home on Dec. 15. Security authorities have been investigating the case since receiving a report about Al-Jirani’s disappearance.
Those arrested included Abdullah Ali Al-Darweesh, 25; Mazen Ali Al-Qabaah, 40; and Mustafa Ahmad Al-Sahwan, 25.
The three men, Al-Turki said, were tasked by planners to implement the crime.
The other three, who are on the run and who are wanted in the kidnapping case are: Mohammad Hussein Al-Ammar, 35; Haitham Ali Al-Qudaihi, 29; and Ali Bilal Al-Hamed, 22.
Al-Turki said these three suspects were among the wanted criminals announced last October, for their involvement in a number of terrorism crimes in Qatif and Dammam.
Al-Turki, in a press statement, said preliminary information confirms the wanted criminal, Al-Amar, is the mastermind of the operation and had tasked the arrested individuals to monitor and follow the judge in advance of the kidnapping.
The official confirmed that security authorities still do not have any information about the whereabouts of Sheikh Al-Jirani nor his health condition.
The names of others involved in the crime cannot currently be disclosed due to ongoing investigations.
The ministry warned the perpetrators against harming Al-Jirani, and urged them to release him immediately. Should the judge be subjected to any harm, those involved will be held criminally and fully responsible.
The ministry urged all those who have any information about the wanted individuals, or previous announcements regarding the kidnappers, or information about the location of the kidnapped judge, to contact (900) or the nearest security apparatus.
Should future investigations identify any individual that withheld information or had any involvement in the crime, they will be held accountable and considered a partner in the crime, the ministry said.
Anyone who reports information that leads to the arrest of a wanted criminal will be rewarded SR1,000,000 ($266,600), as per a royal decree of 2003, while any information that leads to the arrest of more than one wanted criminal will be rewarded with SR5,000,000.
A reward of SR7,000,000 will be given to anyone who reports information that leads to the thwarting of a terrorist operation.
Authorities speculate that Al-Jirani’s position in opposition of terrorism occurring in Qatif, Al-Awwamiya, and Dammam, and his calls not to transfer funds collected from Shiites in Saudi Arabia to other countries such as Iraq, Iran, and Lebanon to be spent on the poor may have been the motive for his kidnapping.
Al-Turki clarified that while this is possible, the ministry and security agencies cannot speak on behalf of the kidnappers until they have been arrested, investigated, and Al-Jirani freed.
He also noted that there is currently no information about ties between the kidnapping and the incident involving the attack on the mayor of Tarut.
Al-Turki confirmed those arrested were supporters of the kidnappers, and do not have any information about the whereabouts of Al-Jirani, nor information about other individuals that may be targeted among families of Qatif or Dammam.
He said investigation and security efforts in the Kingdom are not based solely on protecting targeted individuals because the primary targets of terrorists are security people themselves. Last year, security men and military officers at the Ministry of Defense were subjected to five terrorist operations, four of which were direct targets of security men of the Ministry of Interior in Qatif and one that targeted a land forces officer in Tabuk. Thankfully, all the terrorists have met their fate due to the efforts and security strategy to fight such crimes, he said.
He said the consensus is that terrorist incidents that occurred in the Kingdom have been supported from foreign countries and originations, but security staff at the ministry are specialized in combatting terrorism within the Kingdom.
Al-Turki said security agencies monitor and pursue all Saudis that have been lured to go to conflict areas and abroad, and are in regular contact with their families in an effort to convince them to return to the Kingdom.
A royal order was issued criminalyzing travel to conflict zones, with is punishable with a jail sentence of at least three years prior to transfer to Prince Mohammed bin Nayef Counseling and Care Center.
Al-Turki said the number of Saudis abroad has reached nearly 2,100 citizens, including women and children, noting that the fight against terrorism requires the effort of the entire Saudi community in order to combat and promote the negative effects of these extremist ideologies.
He concluded by saying that the escape of the kidnappers abroad is possible, but unlikely, as there is upmost trust in the work of security authorities and agencies at border posts and ports.


How ‘Absher’ app liberates Saudis from government bureaucracy

The Absher website also provides information on how to report wanted persons, or administrative or financial corruption. (Supplied)
Updated 17 February 2019
0

How ‘Absher’ app liberates Saudis from government bureaucracy

  • Western media mistaken in portraying app as a tool of repression, leading female journalist says

JEDDAH: Absher, the “one-click” e-services app launched by the Interior Ministry in 2015, is now regarded as the leading government platform for Saudi citizens, freeing them from bureaucratic inefficiency and endless queuing for everyday services.
However, in a recent New York Times article, the app was criticized as a “tool of repression” following claims by Democratic Senator Ron Wyden and women’s rights groups.
Apple and Google were urged to remove the application from their devices over claims that it “enables abhorrent surveillance and control of women.”
In an official statement, the ministry rejected the allegations and said the Absher platform centralized more than 160 different services for all members of society, including women, the elderly and people with special needs.
The app makes electronic government services available for beneficiaries to access directly at any time and from any place in the Kingdom, the ministry said.
Absher allows residents of the Kingdom to make appointments, renew IDs, passports, driver’s licenses, car registration and other services with one click.
Many Saudis still recall having to queue at government agencies, such as passport control offices and civil affairs departments, for a variety of official procedures. Appointments could take weeks to arrange, with people relying on their green files, or “malaf allagi” — the 1980s and 1990s paper form of Absher that was known as the citizen’s “lifeline,” both figuratively and literally.
Hours would be spent as government departments ferried files back and forth, and if a form was lost, the whole transaction process would have to start again. As complicated as it was for men, women suffered more.
Muna Abu Sulayman, an award-winning strategy adviser and media personality, told Arab News the introduction of Absher had helped strengthen women’s rights.
Sulayman said she was disappointed at comments on the e-services platform being made abroad. “There are consequences that people don’t understand. It’s a very idealistic and naive way of understanding what is going on,” she said.
“The discussion on the guardianship law is internal and ongoing — it is something that has to be decided by our society and not as a result of outside pressure. We’re making strides toward equality and Absher is a step in the right direction,” she said.
“In a Twitter survey, I asked how many women have access to their guardian’s Absher. Most answered that they control their own fate. Men who don’t believe in controlling women gave them access to their Absher and that shows an increase in the participation of women in their own decision-making.”
Absher also provides services such as e-forms, dealing with Hajj eligibility, passport control, civil affairs, public services, traffic control, and medical appointments at government hospitals.
The platform is available to all men and women, and removes much of the bureaucracy and time wasting associated with nonautomated administrative systems.
On the issue of granting women travel permits, the law requires a male guardian to grant it through the portal, as well as for men under the age of 21.
Retired King Abdullah University professor Dr. Zainab M. Zain told Arab News: “I always had issues with my passport renewal as well as my children’s as they are both non-Saudi. For years it was risky not to follow up properly at passport control — you never knew what could happen, but now I can renew their permits by paying their fees online through Absher from the comfort of my home in Abu Dhabi.”
Ehsanul Haque, a Pakistani engineer who has lived in the Kingdom for more than 30 years, said: “Absher has helped tremendously with requests, such as exit and entry visas for my family and myself. I can receive approval within an hour whereas once it would’ve taken me days,” he said.
“The platform has eased many of my troubles.”
The Absher website also provides information on how to report wanted persons, or administrative or financial corruption.
In April, 2018, the ministry launched “Absher Business,” a technical initiative to transfer its business services to an interactive digital system.
With an annual fee of SR2,000 ($533), business owners such as Marwan Bukhary, owner of Gold Sushi Club Restaurant in Jeddah, used the portal to help manage his workers’ needs in his expanding business.
“There are many features in Absher that helps both individual and establishment owners,” he said. “I took advantage of the great features it provided, and it saved me a lot of time and trouble and also my restaurant workers. It’s a dramatic change. When Absher Business was launched last year, it organized how I needed to manage my workers’ work permits.
“Through the system, I could see the status of all my employees, renew their permits, grant their exit and entry visas, and have their permits delivered to my house or my business through the post after paying the fees. It saved business owners a lot of time and energy.
“I used to have to do everything manually myself or have my courier help. I believe it’s the government’s most advanced system yet with more features being added every now and then,” Bukhary said.
“Absher has eased our burden, unlike the old days when we needed to visit government offices and it would take four weeks just to get an appointment. One click is all it takes now.”