Al Watan reported that a Saudi man was killed and his wife and two children were injured when their car crashed off a bridge while being pursued by religious police in Jeddah, a spokesman for the religious police said on Monday. Formally known as the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (CPVPV), religious police officers arrest those who do not comply with their rules. In March the commission’s head banned car pursuits which had led to several fatal accidents.
Family members told Saudi Arabia’s al-Watan newspaper that the chase began when a CPVPV officer confronted Abdulrahman Ahmed al-Ghamdi, 35, and his family while he was returning home from an amusement park in the southern province of al-Baha. The music played were Islamic children’s songs. According to the story the CPVPV supporters now put out Abdulrahman was going through a police checkpoint and was uncooperative and that it was the police who actually chased the family and the CPVPV come only on the accident spot much later. It is the norm for the CPVPV to put out fairytales after they have been the cause of innocent lives lost.
The car sped off with the religious police in pursuit, and crashed over a bridge, killing Ghamdi. His nine year-old son is in a coma and his five months pregnant wife may have to have her arm amputated as a result of the accident. His younger daughter, 4, is in stable condition in hospital with several broken bones. Nasser al-Zahrani, a spokesman for the CPVPV in al-Baha confirmed the report. “There is a committee set up and an investigation ongoing to look into the incident,” he said.
Sheikh Abdulatif Al al-Sheikh, the head the CPVPV, was quoted in the local al-Watan newspaper commenting on the incident. “I have expressed my sadness and regret to the (al-Baha governor) and we hope that he will forward the case to the appropriate department for investigation.
Security services arrested four members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice after they were interrogated (on Sunday) over the chase.
The men will be charged with “abusing power, chasing a man with his family while ignoring instructions given to members of the committee completely banning chases”.
The ruler of Al-Baha, Prince Mashari bin Saud bin Abdul Aziz said he was “appalled at the manner” in which the religious police acted and that an committee had been instructed to investigate the incident, state news agency SPA reported.
“All those linked to the accident have been arrested and are being interrogated… those responsible will be punished,” .
In March 2012 the religious police promised to stop the car chases. Alriyadh newspaper quoted the head of the force, Sheikh Abdulatif Al al-Sheikh, as saying: “The car chases by the religious police will end” .
A spokesman for the force, Abdulmohsen al-Qifari, confirmed this. “We care a great deal to make the image of the commission a positive one that reflects the true image of Islam. There is no doubt that these (plans) portray a new vision for the commission,”.
The religious police been trying to soften their image after gaining the reputation of being aggressive following several fatal accidents, prompting criticism at home and abroad. The decision to ban car chases was not widely accepted by all members of the religious police. The Saudi religious police has suffered repeated criticism at home and abroad, most notoriously after local media accused religious police of hampering efforts to rescue 15 girls who died inside a blazing Mecca school in 2002. “We have carried out many training sessions to prepare our patrols for catching up with the times,” Al al-Sheikh said.