Saudi religious police accused over fatal accident

Women and men in Saudi Arabia (file) Saudi Arabia's religious police enforce the country's strict Muslim code

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A family in Saudi Arabia has accused religious police of being responsible for a fatal car accident.

Morality police argued with the driver of a car listening to children's songs with his family in a park in Baha province, reports say.

The driver, Abdulrahman al Ghamdi, drove off and was pursued by the police at speed before losing control of the car and dying in the crash.

The officers involved have been detained and are being questioned.

The incident happened in early July near the small town of Baljurashi in the south-western province.

After being followed for several kilometres by the police, Mr al Ghamdi's car fell down a bank at an overpass that was still under construction.

The 34-year-old's wife and two children survived the crash but were injured and remain in hospital.

A photo of the accident shows that the roof of the car was sheared off.

The Emir of the Baha region is reported to have said he was appalled at how the religious police behaved.

But supporters of the religious police say they have been unfairly blamed. Part of their role is to patrol the streets to stop what they see as infringements of the country's strict Muslim code.

Some have claimed that Mr al Ghamdi drove through a police checkpoint.

Mr al Ghamdi's family want a fact-finding committee to be set up under the direct supervision of the Emir of Baha.

A new head of the religious police was appointed recently and he has tried to rein in some of its excesses.

Incidents like this will only add to a public mood that is increasingly impatient with what many Saudis see as the religious police's arbitrary interference in their lives.

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