London, May 13 : A Saudi Arabian man is to get 150 lashes and spend eight months in prison after he was caught meeting a woman without a chaperone in a coffee shop.
Muhammad Ali Abu Raziza, a psychology professor in Mecca, was arrested by the Kingdom's feared religious police, the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. He was accused of breaking the Islamic injunctions under the Khilwa code, which restricts the independence of women. It stipulates that women must not meet men alone, other than relatives.
According to The Telegraph, the professor has alleged police entrapment. He claimed a history of personality disputes with the arresting officers, who were once his students. In his defence, Abu Raziza said he had called the woman to ensure she had a chaperone but despite her assurances, she was alone when he arrived. No information has emerged about the fate of the woman since the incident.
Amnesty International has urged Saudi authorities to release the professor: Saudi Arabia applies an austere form of Islam which bans women from mixing with men to whom they are not related, voting or driving, as well as punishing men and women found guilty of illegal encounters.
The religious police have wide powers to search for alcohol, drugs and prostitution, ensure shops are closed during prayers in addition to maintaining a strict system of sexual segregation.