BANGKOK, Thailand -- A Saudi Arabian court sentenced four men to prison for up to 10 years, plus up to 2,000 lashes with a whip, after they were convicted in what the local media dubbed as the "naked dancing" case, Al-Sharq newspaper reported.

The four were charged with "dancing on a vehicle in public and posting a video online, encouraging vice, defying norms of the society, and violating public morals," Arabic-language Al-Sharq reported on Oct. 3, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).

"In a video posted on YouTube, several men appear dancing atop a vehicle in the ultra-conservative province of Qassim. None seemed naked," AFP said.

According to a Google translation of Al-Sharq's website, the men's performance included "dancing and striptease".

The court in Buraydah, Qassim's provincial capital, sentenced one defendant to 10 years in prison and 2,000 lashes, and another man to seven years in prison plus 1,200 lashes.

Each of the other two men were jailed for three years and 500 lashes.

Saudi Arabia's courts use Islamic Sharia laws which allow convicts to be imprisoned and whipped for various crimes, including cases involving public nudity, vice and violating other social norms.

The convictions coincided with an unrelated announcement by the education ministry that Saudi Arabian teenagers will be expelled from school for one year and undergo Islamic re-education if they mock Muslim prayers, traditions or behavior.

"I have noted that there are many students, under the age of 18, who are engaging in insolent behavior directed toward Islam," Abdullah Al-Turki, a public school teacher in the capital Jeddah, told Arab News.

"Most of them have been affected by globalization and are carried away by a desire to imitate what they deem as Western freedom," Al-Turki said.

"It is alarming to see students mocking our religious values," said Abed Mansour, a private school's religion teacher in Jeddah.

"I have had some students who laugh during prayers," Mansour said.

Education ministry officials announced the disciplinary move after receiving "reports of a number of students found mocking the rituals of Islam and discussing subjects and ideas the violate Islamic law," the paper said.

Punishment includes unpaid community work and attendance at "behavioral adjustment and life-skill sessions," the Oct. 3 report said.

Those courses would create youngsters committed to Islam and Saudi Arabia, said Education Ministry Spokesman Muhammad Al-Dakhini.


Richard S. Ehrlich is a Bangkok-based journalist from San Francisco, California, reporting news from Asia since 1978, and recipient of Columbia University's Foreign Correspondent's Award. He is a co-author of three non-fiction books about Thailand, including "Hello My Big Big Honey!" Love Letters to Bangkok Bar Girls and Their Revealing Interviews; 60 Stories of Royal Lineage; and Chronicle of Thailand: Headline News Since 1946. Mr. Ehrlich also contributed to the final chapter, Ceremonies and Regalia, in a new book titled King Bhumibol Adulyadej, A Life's Work: Thailand's Monarchy in Perspective.

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(Copyright 2013 Richard S Ehrlich)