British man and his Saudi wife 'assaulted by religious police' in upscale supermarket carpark in Riyadh

The couple thanked Saudis their support over social media

A shocking video has emerged online appearing to show a British man and his Saudi wife being assaulted by members of Saudi Arabia’s religious police, after they used a supermarket checkout intended for women and families in Riyadh on Friday evening.

Peter Howarth-Lees, 53, claims that he and his wife, Abeer al-Fouti, were attacked in a carpark of the upscale Danube Hypermarket, by three men who objected to the couple using a checkout operated by a woman.

During the violent incident, a man – whom Mr Howarth-Lees believes was not a member of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Haia) - jumped on the couple’s car and kicked him in the neck. Haia officers then allegedly kicked him in the back and stamped on his face.

A video of the altercation shows a man leap upon the Briton who has lived in Saudi Arabia for 17 years. Mrs Al-Fouti then appears to defend her husband by hitting the officer.

While a man appears to unwittingly obstruct the shot, the men seem to try to restrain Mrs Al-Fouti, as Mr Howarth-Lees shouts “Get off my wife! That’s my wife, how dare you!” Mr Howarth-Lees claims the men had kicked Mrs Al-Fouti in the stomach.

 

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After local police officers arrived at the scene but did not apprehend the harassers, the couple had to wait to be escorted from the scene by a security team from the British Embassy, the Saudi Gazette reported.

But the following day, Mr Howarth-Lees said officers tracked the couple down to take down their statements on the alleged assault. He added they were "treated with great care and respect" and were taken to hospital for medical check-ups.

Haia chief Abdullatif Al-Asheikh and Riyadh Emir Prince Turki Bin Abdullah have since launched an investigation into incident, the Al-Hayat newspaper reported.

“Alhamdolillah [Thank God], we were not badly hurt, just bruised and shocked and our love and loyalty for this country, which is our home, is not shaken by this incident,” Mr Howarth-Lees told the Saudi Gazette.

As news of the reported altercation spread, outraged Saudis tweeted Arabic hashtags including "Praise your right hand Abeer” and “Abeer’s slap represents me”.

The British Foreign Office said it was aware of the incident and is providing consular assistance to the Mr Howarth-Lees.

“We welcome the undertaking given by the President of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, Sheikh Abdullatif bin Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh, to investigate the incident fully,” a spokesperson added.

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