Ministry of Magic: Two Saudi women arrested for 'witchcraft'
Two women were arrested for practicing witchcraft in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, after a video went viral on social media of a woman trying to photocopy images of talismans in a shop.
The women were both arrested in al-Raed, located to the east of the country’s capital, Riyadh, after the police were notified about the video.
"Regional police followed up on a video found on social media, showing a woman in possession of papers containing magic talismans,” a spokesperson for the police said.
“Another woman was also arrested for having provided her with those papers.
The two women are currently in custody and have been charged by the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution.
A video of the incident went viral on Saudi social media, after the shop owner interrupted the woman while she was printing out the copies, saying that magic was illegal.
In a statement, the shop owner said “When I discovered the presence of talismans and magic papers, I told her that this magic is forbidden, and I will not allow you to photocopy those papers.”
The charge of practicing witchcraft can result in the death sentence in Saudi Arabia, although the charge is not usually applied in the majority of cases.
In the video, the woman can be seen begging the shop owner not to report her to police.
Fear of witchcraft is so prevalent in Saudi Arabia that the government set up an 'anti-witchcraft unit' in the country’s police in 2009.
A total of 215 people were arrested in 2012 for practicing witchcraft, according to the Saudi Gazette.
According to the US-based Pew Research Center, “substantial numbers of Muslims continue to believe in the existence of witchcraft,” although the level of this belief varies according to region and culture.The survey found that 89 percent of Tunisians believed in sorcery, compared with only 14 percent of Palestinians, for example.