Saudi religious police urges crackdown on blackmailers of women

Sheikh Abdel Latif al- Sheikh called for naming and shaming perpetrators as a means of deterring the crime

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The head of Saudi Arabia’s religious police called Monday for tougher measures against blackmailers of women in the kingdom and noted the rising number of cases of the crime on the internet.

Sheikh Abdel Latif al- Sheikh, the head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, told Al Arabiya News Channel that blackmailers of women were presently getting light sentences and that tougher ones were needed.

Al-Sheikh, in a news conference earlier in the day, called for naming and shaming perpetrators as a means of deterring the crime which he said was on the rise.

The official told Al Arabiya that last week alone eight cases of blackmail had been reported in a single day at two centers affiliated with the religious police in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

Al- Sheikh said the crime was being seen increasingly online.

“Through modern technology, some methods have been used by weak, evil people … They do not have a religious deterrent and through this technology they have managed to abuse some women,” he said.

He noted cases of women having been extorted online for sex, money, forced into prostitution or peddling illegal narcotics.

“It could be that a woman committed a mistake and a person took pictures of her and managed to secure incriminating evidence and then blackmails her,” he said. “Some blackmail the women in order to force them to turn to drug dealing.”

“Others might force them to work in prostitution, may God protect us from it. There is no doubt that these issues are odds in our society and prohibited in our religion,” he said.

Al-Sheikh said women falling prey to blackmailers would be protected.

“I mean if she commits this mistake once, God forbid, the men of the Commission will protect her and will cooperate with her in order to free her from the grip of her abusers,” he said.

He said that to deter the crime, tougher sentences needed to be issued and that those convicted would be named and shamed.

He admitted that the blackmail crimes committed online were not straightforward.

“This crime is complex, and it becomes worse when some people come and justify it, or the girl's family exerts pressure on her, and waive their rights or force her to waive her right,” he said.

At a press conference earlier in the day Al-Sheikh warned that individuals involved in such crimes would would be named and shamed, with their named published in media throughout the kingdom.

He also said journalists needed to cooperate with the Commission to fight this crime.

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