by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
Saudi Arabia's religious police have arrested a Gay man for using Facebook to meet other men, activists in the kingdom say.
The man - who was not identified by name - was arrested on December 23, but details of the case are only now being revealed by reporters for the Gay Middle East website.
The 30-year-old man is reportedly being held in the Persian Gulf coast town of Dammam while awaiting prosecution. If convicted, he may be sentenced to a prison term, flogging, or even death.
According to a Sabq blog post cited by Gay Middle East, an unnamed Saudi citizen turned the man in to religious police working for the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.
They then apprehended the man, who confessed that 'the Facebook profile is his and that he had been using it for obscenity acts with other men.'
According to Gay Middle East, this is first known case of entrapment of a Gay man via Facebook in Saudi Arabia. Despite an email and a phone call from Gay Middle East, Facebook would not comment on the incident.
Saudi law does not recognize a right to privacy. The religious police encourage Saudis to inform on 'deviants' and routinely entrap Gay men. Recently a British male nurse was entrapped by a fake text message sent by the religious police. He was beaten and imprisoned for six months, Gay Middle East said.
Entrapment by the religious police does not necessarily lead to prosecution, but often results in life-long financial or sexual blackmail, Gay Middle East editor Sami Hamwi said.
'Sexual blackmail and abuse by the Religious Police is unfortunately quite common,' Hamwi said.
'When I lived in Medina [Saudi Arabia], a neighbor who was a member of the religious police raped my neighbor's son, a 12-year-old boy, at that time. The same man entrapped and arrested a Pakistani national for homosexuality; the guy was whipped 80 times and before being deported. Such a sentence is often applied when sexual intercourse cannot be proven.'
Hamwi noted that the man was being held in Dammam, a predominately Shiite area of Saudi Arabia.
'Native born Saudi citizens who are Sunni or from the Bedouin tribes in the country are often let off, while punishments are severely executed against minorities like Shiites and/or newly naturalized citizens,' Hamwi said.
'Punishments regarding homosexuality are also held against expatriates working in Saudi Arabia, especially those coming from Asian, African, and Arab countries. Dammam is a largely Shiite area and if the 30-year-old aforementioned man is a Shiite, he is likely to be [tried] and sentenced harshly.'
The report of the man's arrest coincided with an official visit by British Prime Minister David Cameron to Saudi Arabia. The British Foreign Ministry is 'aware of the reports and seeking further information,' a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said.
'The U.K. opposes all discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) people in all circumstances. We are committed to combating violence and discrimination against LGBT people as an integral part of our international human rights work. We believe that human rights are universal and that LGBT people should be free to enjoy the rights and freedoms to which people of all nations are entitled.'
British human rights activist Peter Tatchell urged the British government to intervene in the case.
'I urge Foreign Secretary William Hague, and E.U. Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton, to make representations to the Saudi government to secure the release of this man,' Tatchell said in a statement.
'His detention violates all the norms of international human rights law. In the longer term, Britain and the U.S. must stop colluding with the Saudi royal dictatorship. Sanctions should be imposed against the regime until it ensures democracy and human rights for all its citizens.'
Amnesty International has also become involved in the case.
'If the man reported in the Sabq story has been arrested and charged with homosexuality, Amnesty International would consider him to be a prisoner of conscience and call for his immediate and unconditional release,' an Amnesty International spokesperson said.
'Amnesty International considers the use of 'sodomy' laws to imprison (usually) men for same-sex relations in private to be a grave violation of human rights, including the rights to privacy, to freedom from discrimination, to freedom of expression and association, which are protected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.'
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