A group of 19 Filipinas jailed in Saudi Arabia for attending a Halloween party in a private compound have been released.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) confirmed today (Tuesday, October 30) that the overseas workers had been detained in Riyadh’s Al Nisa Jail since their arrest on Friday night.
Citing information from the Philippine Embassy, Assistant Secretary Elmer Cato also confirmed that the group had been released late this afternoon.
The 19 were among a number of people taken into custody by Saudi intelligence operatives, who raided a compound in Riyadh after neighbours complained about noise.
It has not been confirmed what laws the group were alleged to have been broken, but the embassy believes the organisers of the party have been charged with holding an event without a permit and for disturbance.
Other Saudi laws strictly prohibit unattached males and females from being seen together in public. It is believed the Halloween party was also attended by five men from Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen and Egypt.
It is not known if any alcohol — which is strictly forbidden in Saudi Arabia — was being consumed.
Halloween party arrests prompt advice
The DFA and the embassy have issued an advisory urging overseas Filipino workers, particularly those in Middle East, to be mindful of local sensitivities.
The statement said: “Everyone is reminded to avoid mixed crowds, consuming liquor and holding public practice of traditions that are associated with religions other than Islam such as Halloween, Valentine’s and Christmas.
“Finally, the Embassy advises the Filipino community in the Kingdom against producing, spreading, or sharing, electronically or through social media anything that compromises public order, religious values, public morals and privacy, pursuant of the Kingdom’s laws and policies on cyber-crimes.”
In theory, the revellers at Friday’s party — particularly if wearing particularly ghoulish costumes — could have fallen foul of the Kingdom’s draconian anti-witchcraft laws.
Saudi’s religious police force includes a dedicated anti-witchcraft unit with a “sorcery hotline” for people to report suspected necromancy. In 2011, a Saudi woman named Amina bint Abdul Halim bin Salem Nasser was beheaded for such a crime.
The UN estimates that expatriate workers make up as much as 37 per cent of the Saudi population. Although exact numbers are not available, at least two million of these — including many Filipinos — are non-Muslims.
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