RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (Feb. 4) - A Saudi Arabian judge sentenced 20 foreigners to receive lashes and spend several months in prison after convicting them of attending a party where alcohol was served and men and women danced, a newspaper reported Sunday.
The defendants were among 433 foreigners, including some 240 women, arrested by the kingdom's religious police for attending the party in Jiddah, the state-guided newspaper Okaz said. It did not identify the foreigners, give their nationalities or say when the party took place.
Judge Saud al-Boushi sentenced the 20 to prison terms of three to four months and ordered them to receive an unspecified number of lashes, the newspaper said. They have the right to appeal, it added.
The prosecutor general charged the 20 with "drinking, arranging for impudent party, mixed dancing and shooting a video for the party," Okaz said.
The paper said the rest of those arrested were awaiting trial.
Saudi Arabia follows a strict interpretation of Islam under which it bans alcohol and meetings between unrelated men and women.
The religious police, a force resented by many Saudis for interfering in personal lives, enjoys wide powers. Its officers roam malls, markets, universities and other public places looking for such infractions as unrelated men and women mingling, men skipping Islam's five daily prayers and women with strands of hair showing from under their veil.
In May, the Interior Ministry restricted the powers of the religious police to just arresting suspects, because the police sometimes had held people incommunicado and insisted on taking part in ensuing investigations.
Couldn't they just put them on the next plane out?