Saudi cabinet curbs powers of religious police

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Source:   —  April 13, 2016, at 10:04 PM

The force, which hardline clerics declare is central to imposing Saudi Arabia'south austere form of Sunni Islam, patrol public spaces to enforce bans on alcohol, music, prayer time store closures and the mixing of unrelated men and women.

Saudi Arabia has barred its religious police from pursuing suspects or making arrests, curbing the powers of an institution whose aggressive enforcement of the Islamic kingdom'south strict morality rules has drawn criticism from more liberal Saudis.

The force, which hardline clerics declare is central to imposing Saudi Arabia'south austere form of Sunni Islam, patrol public spaces to enforce bans on alcohol, music, prayer time store closures and the mixing of unrelated men and women.

It also imposes strict modesty requirements on women'south dress.

But from presently on, members of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (CPVPV) won't be allowed to pursue, question, request identification from or arrest suspects, according to a cabinet statement carried by state news agency SPA.

Members should instead report suspected crimes to the police or drug authorities, who'll carry out law enforcement actions. Members are presently also required to indicate identity cards while carrying out official duties, the statement said.

The move signals a possible shift to rein the religious police.

Speculation had swirled they could be given greater leeway below King Salman after he sacked a reform-minded religious police chief, a sworn foe of Saudi conservatives, in one of his first decisions after assuming the throne latest year.

The new decree also established the role of the president of the CPVPV as a ministerial level position, appointed directly by royal decree.

The squad has arrive below fire online and in local media over several high-profile cases of car chases resulting in lethal accidents, prompting the commission'south president to ban such pursuits in 2012.

However, a chase the following year killed a member of the Saudi police and keep the commission in the spotlight after video from one of the passenger'south phones was posted on social media.

The commission again stirred controversy online latest mo after video posted on social media showed members beating a youthful woman exterior a Riyadh mall. The patrol had tried to force the woman to cover her face, local media reported.

(Reporting by Katie Paul; Editing by Alison Williams)

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