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Saudi police arrest citizen who helped non-Muslim journalist ‘enter Mecca’

After it was claimed that he assisted an Israeli-American journalist in reaching Mecca, the holiest shrine in Islam and a place that only Muslims are permitted to visit, a Saudi citizen was detained and handed over to the Public Prosecution. On Monday, journalist Gil Tamary of Israel’s Channel 13 posted a video on Twitter showing himself sneaking into Mecca, Islam’s holiest city, in violation of a ban on non-Muslims.

According to a police spokeswoman quoted by the Saudi Press Agency, Mecca regional police have ‘referred a citizen’ to prosecutors for alleged involvement in ‘transferring and assisting the arrival of a (non-Muslim) journalist’.  According to Saudi Press Agency, the journalist, who is an American citizen, has also had his case forwarded to prosecutors so that they can ‘take the necessary procedures against him in compliance with the applied laws’.

Despite developing behind-the-scenes business and security contacts, Saudi Arabia does not recognise Israel and did not sign the 2020 Abraham Accords, which were mediated by the US and saw the Jewish state forge connections with two of the kingdom’s neighbours, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Tamary travels to Mount Arafat in his approximately ten-minute video, where robed Muslim pilgrims assemble each year to pray at the pinnacle of the hajj pilgrimage. He expresses unequivocally that he is aware that his actions are illegal, but claims that he did so to highlight ‘a site that is so significant to our Muslim brothers and sisters’.

Tamary’s defence and subsequent apologies were insufficient to appease angry Saudi online comments. Last Sunday, Gil Tamary, the foreign affairs correspondent for Israel’s Channel 13, reported that he was the first to complete a news report in Hebrew at Islam’s holiest site. Tamary admitted at the outset of his report, which the station aired, that he had entered Mecca without permission from the Saudi government.


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