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Saudi convicted for sexual harassment named in newspaper, in 1st under new law

Yasser Muslim Al-Arawi has his name printed after he was sentenced to eight months in prison and fined

Policemen wearing gloves and face masks to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus provide security for pilgrims in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, July 26, 2020. (Saudi Ministry of Media via AP)
Illustrative: Police officers wearing gloves and face masks to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus provide security for pilgrims in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, July 26, 2020. (Saudi Ministry of Media via AP)

RIYADH — A Saudi man has been named in a newspaper after his conviction for sexual harassment, in an apparent first under new laws tackling a subject that is often seen as taboo.

A court in the Muslim holy city of Medina ordered the public identification of Yasser Muslim Al-Arawi, who was named in the privately owned Okaz newspaper after he was sentenced to eight months in prison and fined 5,000 riyals ($1,300).

Saudi Arabia started penalizing sexual harassment only in 2018, as the conservative kingdom embarked on wide-ranging social reforms including allowing women to drive.

Okaz and state-owned Al-Ekhbariya TV said it was the first application of an amendment that allows courts to order a judgment to be published in local press.

Al-Arawi was found guilty of “touching from behind, verbally assaulting and harassing” the victim, the Okaz report said.

Naming and shaming is sometimes used as a punishment in other cases in rich Gulf countries including Saudi Arabia, where the risk of a fine is not seen as a deterrent.

Since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman became Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler in 2017, Saudi women have enjoyed new freedoms including driving, travelling alone or attending sports and entertainment events alongside men.

However, the opening up has been accompanied by a crackdown on dissent, with women’s rights advocates among those who have been imprisoned or otherwise targeted.

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