RIYADH, 2 July 2007 — The trial of four accused members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice for their involvement in the death of Ahmed Al-Bulawi — a Saudi man who was arrested by them and later collapsed and died at their center last month — started in Tabuk yesterday.
The commission members in Tabuk apprehended Al-Bulawi after he was seen picking up a woman, reportedly in her 50s, in his car near an amusement park. Both he and the woman were arrested and brought in for questioning at the commission’s center. They were accused of being in a state of seclusion (when a man and an unrelated woman are together). At the center, Al-Bulawi collapsed and died. It was later established that the deceased worked for the woman’s family, driving them on errands for extra cash to supplement his pension.
An official medical report cleared commission members of any wrongdoing. The report mentioned that he died of a heart attack due to a medical condition. However the family of the deceased is pressing charges, exercising their private rights, and the commission members are now on trial for the death that occurred in their custody. The family of the deceased is seeking the death penalty, which, under Shariah law, can be administered if the men are found guilty of being responsible for Bulawi’s death. The deceased’s family is accusing the commission of causing the heart attack due to possible emotional pressure, which could have led to his death.
According to Ouda Al-Bulawi, the deceased family’s attorney (no relation), the three judges who presided over the hearing listened to the charge sheet in the case.
“Among the several points in the charge sheet were that commission members had no right to arrest the deceased and bring him to detention,” Al-Bulawi told Arab News. “They also mentioned that when he was arrested and brought in the commission center for interrogation his health was fine and that he left in a body bag.”
He said that family members also noted in the charge sheet that there were alleged violations made by the commission members during the apprehension and questioning process.
After listening to the charge sheet, the attorney said that the judges then listened to the responses from the accused.
“The judge asked them to write their responses in a written form after hearing it verbally,” Al-Bulawi said.
He mentioned that the four accused commission members were not represented by an attorney. He also added that their ages were in the mid-30s. “The four commission members were released on bail and ordered to return on Monday,” he added.