Saudi Arabia used undercover agents from the religious police to catch a 24-year old gay man sending tweets to find other gay men with whom to connect. Agents from the feared "Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Vice" apprehended the man for the "immoral" tweets and photos send from his mobile phone.
The man was convicted and sentenced to 450 lashes and three years in prison after admitting his crime. The lashes will be administered over the course of 15 sessions.
Homosexuality is illegal in Saudi Arabia, which is governed by a Wahhabist interpretation of sharia law. It is also a crime in neighboring Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar as well as many other Muslim-majority countries. Punishments for homosexual sex range from life imprisonment to death by beheading or crucifixion.
Lashes are administered by a thick, bamboo cane to men, women and even children for a variety of crimes. The lack of legal codification of sharia in Saudi Arabia as well as the lack of judicial precedence means that punishments are usually left up to the individual judge.
A recent case of two women in the Kingdom who were handed down sentences of 20 lashes and 10 days in prison each illustrates this situation. The two women,who are cousins, were accused of sending each other insulting messages on their mobile phones via texts and Whats App.
One of the women brought the other woman to court, at which point the judge told them to reconcile out of respect for their family ties and the Islamic month of Ramadan, which is considered holy. When the women refused, the judge issued the sentence, which comes with a 30-day provision to appeal.