Saudi Arabia arrests four over claims coronavirus is 'punishment from God'

Saudi Arabia arrests four over claims coronavirus is 'punishment from God'
Saudi Arabia's public prosecution has ordered the arrest of four people for their comments on social media about the novel coronavirus.
3 min read
28 March, 2020
Among those arrested is believed to be famous Qu'ran reciter Khaled al-Shahri [Twitter]
Saudi Arabia has ordered the arrest of four people for claiming the spread of novel coronavirus is a "punishment from Allah (God)".

The public prosecution said it ordered the arrest of "three people who exploited social media to interpret God's will amid the #coronavirus", in a statement shared on Twitter.

The prosecution said it also ordered "the arrest of a person who appeared in a video mocking the #coronacrisis and giving misleading information about the current situation".

The Saudi public prosecution did not name those who were arrested, but Saudi social media was arife with speculations as to their identities.

Among those arrested is believed to be famous Qu'ran reciter Khaled al-Shahri, who posted a video of himself in which he said disasters and epidemics are a punishment from God. 

His defenders claim the clip is from two years ago and is not related to coronavirus.

Saudi preacher Ibrahim al-Duwaish is also believed to be one of the four arrested. He shared controversial posts on social media on Thursday, linking the spread of coronavirus to the wrong actions of people.

Khaled Abdullah, who works in the health sector, was also mentioned on social media as being one of the four.

Abdullah deleted a controversial tweet from his Twitter account which linked the spread of Covid-19 to the increased number of entertainment events permitted by the ultra-conservative kingdom, Erem News reported.

It is unclear who the fourth arrestee could be.

The Saudi public prosecution has a unit devoted to monitoring activity on social network sites, according to Erem News.

Saudi Arabia, which has recorded over 1,100 cases, has taken serious measures to stem the spread of coronavirus, and appears to also be taking certain measures to control the public narrative around the outbreak. 

On Wednesday, the kingdom sealed off the capital Riyadh and two of Islam's holiest cities and extended curfew hours as it reported its second death from the new coronavirus.

Authorities barred entry and exit from Riyadh as well as Mecca and Medina and prohibited movement between all provinces, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

Saudi Arabia, which has reported the highest number of infections in the Gulf, on Monday began implementing an 11-hour nationwide curfew - starting at 7 pm - to limit the spread of the deadly Covid-19 illness.

Read more: Saudi police arrest suspected coronavirus patient found 'spitting in shopping mall' amid kingdom-wide curfew

The curfew hours were brought forward to 3 pm in the three cities, SPA said citing measures approved by King Salman that will take effect from Thursday.

Authorities plan to implement the curfew for 21 days and have warned that transgressors will be fined 10,000 Saudi riyals ($2,663) and could face jail for repeated breaches.

The Arab world's biggest economy has also closed down cinemas, malls and restaurants, halted flights and suspended the year-round umrah pilgrimage as it steps up efforts to contain the virus.

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