Saudi arrested after Israeli reporter sneaks into Mecca
Riyadh: A Saudi who allegedly helped a non-Muslim enter the holy city of Mecca has been arrested, police in the kingdom said on Friday, after online backlash against an Israeli journalist.
The journalist, Gil Tamary of Israel’s Channel 13, on Monday posted to Twitter video of himself sneaking into Mecca, Islam’s holiest city, in defiance of a ban on non-Muslims.
Mecca regional police have “referred a citizen” to prosecutors for alleged complicity in “transferring and facilitating the entry of a (non-Muslim) journalist”, a police spokesperson said in comments reported by the official Saudi Press Agency.
SPA did not name the journalist but said he is an American citizen, whose case has also been referred to prosecutors “to take the necessary procedures against him in accordance with the applied laws”.
Despite growing behind-the-scenes business and security contacts, Saudi Arabia does not recognise Israel and did not join the 2020 US-brokered Abraham Accords that saw the Jewish state establish ties with two of the kingdom’s neighbours, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
In his roughly 10-minute clip, Tamary visits Mount Arafat, where robed Muslim pilgrims gather to pray during the climax of the hajj pilgrimage each year.
He makes clear he knows that what he’s doing is outlawed but says he wanted to showcase “a place that is so important to our Muslim brothers and sisters”.
Tamary’s justification, and subsequent apology, did little to quiet angry Saudi social media responses.
The controversy followed US President Joe Biden’s visit to both Israel and Saudi Arabia last week.