The head of the Saudi religious police, Sheikh Abdullatif Al Sheikh, admitted on Sunday that a recent car-chase pursuit which involved members of his force had killed a young Saudi and injured another, in an interview with Al Arabiya TV.
"The truth is that the pursuit took place, and I have immediately issued a decision has condemned the incident,” Sheikh said in the Al Arabiya interview.
Sheikh added that the incident is currently under investigation.
“Upon the issuance of the results, everyone will take his/her right according to the law,” Sheikh added.
Nasser Algoos, 24, died in a crash following a car chase by the country’s religious police earlier this week. His brother Saud, 22, was taken to intensive care with serious injuries and is said to be still in a coma.
To many Saudis, the religious police charm offensive is not enough. Veteran Saudi journalist, Omar el-Madhawi, expressed anger at Saudi judicial authorities.
“The judicial authorities have never taken action to prevent the mistakes and crimes committed by the religious police force. The law is always on their side."
“The religious police have become a huge burden on the Saudi people. These accidents have increased greatly in the past few years. One solution to this escalating problem could be to force the religious police to become more transparent with their rules and punishments, maybe then people would, at least, stop fearing them and would know what to expect when suspected or find themselves being followed by the officers.” he told Al Arabiya.
Sheikh, was pictured on Sunday consoling the father of the man who has died in the car chase.
Saudi-daily al-Watan reported that Sheikh attended the funeral of the man and told the family that he will not interfere in investigations, even if the religious police members involved in the incident were convicted.
Attendees of the funeral reportedly asked Sheikh the reason for his visit, he replied that "he was here to fulfill his duty."
Nasser’s death has stirred uproar on the social media, especially after it became known that the involved members of the Saudi religious police fled the scene of the accident.
The news of the crash went viral when a witness first uploaded a video of the car chase, which took place on Tuesday in Riyadh. The witness posted the video on his Twitter account with the hashtag: “The religious police killed two men on National Day.”
Reactions were divided among those who supported the religious authority, commonly known as the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of vice Committee, and those who opposed it and calling on the judge to hold the committee men accountable for the accident.
“The Saudi public is divided between two camps, some are supporting the committee because they believe they are implementing God’s governance on Earth, others are against their strong grip on the state and people” Madhawi said.
The religious authority is also referred to in Arabic simply as “the Haia” meaning “the committee.”
The religious police in Saudi Arabia are tasked with enforcing Sharia (Islamic law) as defined in Saudi Arabia. In addition to having the power to arrest anyone engaged in homosexual acts, prostitution, fornication, or proselytizing of non-Muslim religions, they can also arrest unrelated males and females caught socializing, enforce Islamic dress-codes, Muslim dietary laws (such as the prohibition from eating pork) and store closures during prayer times.