By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief
Manama: A court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced three young men to 75 days in jail and to 50 lashes after they were found guilty of harassing two girls in public.
However, the defendants appealed the ruling and asked for a lighter punishment while the public prosecutor said he would go for tougher sentences from a higher court.
The case that sent shockwaves in Saudi Arabia started in July when a gang of youngsters harassed two young women who were taking a stroll along the corniche in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah.
The defendants were among the group of adolescents following the two girls, one of whom was fully veiled and the other with only the upper half of her face showing.
The two women pleaded with the raucous teenagers to leave them alone, but their pleas seemed to fall on deaf ears.
The mass harassment was recorded on a smartphone and the video clip went viral on the internet, prompting social media users to call for strong action against the anti-social elements.
Prince Khalid Al Faisal, Governor of Makkah Province, issued directives to arrest those involved and to intensify the security presence in parks and recreational areas to ensure the incident was not repeated.
Bloggers widely condemned the incident.
“This is totally unacceptable, and there should be stringent action,” Golden posted. “They are beasts and they should be severely punished.”
Another blogger writing under the moniker of Saudi said the adolescents were a dishonour to their families. “They are totally ridiculous and they should be taken to a court of law. There is no respect for our traditions and I want to ask if these boys would accept any form of harassment against their sisters or mothers. Unfortunately, many people are no longer concerned with our way of life.”
Bloggers said they looked forward to legal action in line with the sentences meted out in a harassment case in the Eastern Province.
In the 2013 case, young men who were arrested in for harassment were flogged inside the mall where they had verbally abused a group of girls.
The young men were detained after a video clip of their verbal confrontation with the girls at the mall’s parking lot went viral on social networks.
The court issued jail sentences of between one month and five months and ordered that the lashings be carried out at the mall.
According to media reports, more than 2,700 harassment cases against women are recorded annually in the kingdom, with about two thirds committed by Saudis and the rest by expatriates.