Saudi religious police cleared over fatal car chase

Two Haia members had been charged over the deaths of two brothers whose car rolled and fell off a bridge after being hit by the religious police’s vehicle

A Saudi Arabian criminal court has cleared four members of the kingdom’s religious police of causing the deaths of two brothers during a car chase in September last year.

Nasser and Saud Al Qaws, aged in their 20s, died after the car they were travelling in was hit by a vehicle driven by a member of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Haia).

The car rolled and fell off a bridge.

Nasser died at the scene, while Saud died hours after his brother’s funeral.

It is not clear why the two Haia members chased the brothers’ car. They reportedly fled the scene but were later arrested.

Haia president Abdul Latif Al Asheikh offered support to the victims’ families after the incident and said the commission would not interfere in police investigations.

“We stand by the victims’ family and will not appoint a defence lawyer for the Haia members, who reportedly caused the fatal accident on Tuesday,” Al Asheikh told the family during a visit to their home in Riyadh.

“Like you, we are also deeply pained by the calamity that has occurred.”

Another brother of the victims said the Haia chief apologised to his father for the actions of his members.

“The sheikh said the suspects did not act on behalf of the Haia but acted on their own,” Saad Al Qaus was quoted as saying.

But Arab News reported on Wednesday a Riyadh criminal court acquitted four Haia members in a verdict handed down in private two weeks ago.

The additional two Haia members on trial had been accused of attempting to mislead investigators.

The Haia, whose members are appointed by the government to enforce strict Sharia law, has been criticised in the past for abusing its powers, including last year when the Saudi Minister of Labor accused the Haia of violating an agreement on the feminisation of lingerie and accessory shops by forcing employers to implement strict rules that did not exist.

The religious police also are known to enforce a custom that prevents women from driving in the kingdom, despite there being no formal law.

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