5 Commission Members Held in Tabuk

Raid Qusti, Arab News
Publication Date: 
Mon, 2007-06-04 03:00

RIYADH, 4 June 2007 — Authorities in Tabuk announced yesterday that five members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice have been detained for interrogation over the death on Friday of a man in their custody.

The family of the victim is demanding an autopsy be done to determine the cause of death, Arab News has learned.

Initial medical reports have indicated that the man — whose name was not provided — died as a result of a sudden rise of blood pressure in his body, which caused a heart attack. However, according to reports, the family believes that their relative could have been exposed to some sort of physical beating which caused the sudden rise in blood pressure. The man’s death in the Virtue Commission’s custody is the second to be reported in the media in less than two weeks. The head of the commission in Tabuk said the man died from a heart attack.

According to a statement released by the Police Department in Tabuk, the 50-year-old Saudi man, a former border patrol guard, was stopped by members of the religious police “for letting a (nonrelative) woman into his car” near Al-Amwaj Amusement Park on Friday.

“He was arrested by members of the Virtue Commission and taken to the commission’s Sultana center,” a Tabuk Police statement said. “While he was in one of the rooms in the center he fell unconscious to the floor. The Saudi Red Crescent ambulance took him to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.”

Meanwhile, the brother of the girl, who was accompanying the man in his car when the arrest took place, told a local newspaper yesterday that the deceased used to drive his sister around on errands, as he worked as a taxi driver. Several people have also testified that the man, who was retired, used his private car as a taxi.

The case has been transferred to the General Investigation and Prosecution Authority (GIPA) where a team from the commission and the governorate are investigating the details and reasons of the death. Tabuk officials have ordered a thorough and speedy investigation.

According to reports, the deceased supported a family of 11 — five boys, six girls — as well as his spouse. His source of income was his pension in addition to the extra cash he got from his taxi business. His relatives said before he died the deceased paid SR3,000 in rent to the house owner who rented his apartment to the dead man’s two girls. The receipt of payment was found in his pocket at the time of death.

“His debts were up to SR50,000 and he used to constantly go to a polyclinic because he was a diabetic and had high blood pressure,” said the victim’s wife.

A source from the governorate of Tabuk told Arab News that the governor had donated “a generous amount of money” to the deceased’s family.

“He also conveyed his condolences to the family and gave directives that the financial situation of the man’s family be studied,” the source said.

Sheikh Sulaiman Al-Anazi, president of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in Tabuk said the deceased was caught in a circumstance “which required his transfer to other authorities.”

“The man fell on his face and the people present in the room thought he was unconscious,” he said. “Accordingly, he was transferred to the hospital and doctors described his death as due to a sudden heart attack.”

Last month, the governorate of Riyadh announced that it was coordinating with the GIPA to investigate the alleged murder of a man after religious police forcefully entered his home in Riyadh on the suspicion that he was processing liquor.

All suspects in the case, including up to eight members of the commission and police officers, are being interrogated. The father is accusing the Virtue Commission of beating his son until he passed away at their center.

In another incident, a woman in Jeddah fell from the fourth floor of an apartment while commission officials raided her house in the Saheefa district.

Qassim Al-Ghamdi, director general of the commission’s office in the Makkah region, confirmed the report, adding that a committee set up by Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal was investigating the incident.

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