Saudi Arabia has arrested a teenage boy on charges of “unethical behaviour” after appearing in online video chats with an American vlogger.
Police claimed the videos shared on YouNow by Abu Sin and Christina Crockett, who lives in California, were “enticing” and invited “negative attention” from viewers around the world.
The videos were originally shown live on the social streaming site but have since been broadcast on YouTube, receiving hundreds of thousands of views.
The humorous clips show Abu Sin and Christina, 21, chatting from their homes in California and Saudi Arabia, battling language differences between English and Arabic and jokingly declaring their love for one another.
In one, Abu Sin – whose nickname translates as “toothless” – dons a traditional Saudi headdress and sings Christina a traditional song before asking her to marry him.
Police in Riyadh detained Abu Sin on Sunday while he was driving with two friends, with the arrest accidentally broadcast live on YouNow as he chatted with another user from Kuwait.
Colonel Fawaz Al-Mayman, a spokesperson for Riyadh police, said Abu Sin was arrested for “unethical behaviour”.
“His videos received many comments and many of the commenters of the general public demanded for him to be punished for his actions,” he added, according to the Saudi Gazette.
“The two of them [Abu Sin and Christina] composed enticing videos which received thousands of followers and viewers from all over the world within a short period of time.
“Most of the viewers were from the Arab world. Abu Sin, nicknamed for his projecting tooth, became famous and received negative attention.”
A Saudi lawyer told the Okaz newspaper the videos breach the country’s interpretation of Sharia law and internet regulations, meaning Abu Sin could face up to three years in prison.
Authorities said he is 19 years old, although he looks considerably younger in the footage.
In one video, he tells Christina he was 20 before she replies sceptically: “But you’re only 13”.
Neither Christina, a beauty and lifestyle vlogger, or YouNow have commented on the arrest.
Saudi Arabia is known to have made several arrests linked to YouTube videos and social media use, including of men who filmed themselves giving out “free hugs” in Riyadh.
Adam Coogle, a Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the country does not have a written penal code but has passed several laws governing internet use, including the Anti-Cybercrime Law of 2007.
Article 6 of the law criminalises “producing something that harms public order, religious values, public morals, the sanctity of private life, or authoring, sending, or storing it via an information network” and imposes penalties of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to three million Saudi Riyals (£615,000).
“We’ve seen many cases in which Saudi prosecutors and judges have used vague provisions this law to charge and try Saudi citizens for peaceful tweets and social media comments,” Mr Coogle told The Independent.
“The case raises serious concerns about the Saudi criminal justice system, both that authorities would target someone for a very trivial speech-related issue, but also that they would arrest a teenager on these grounds.
“It shows once again how sensitive the Saudi authorities have become to the ability of ordinary citizens to voice opinions online that the government considers controversial or taboo.”
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