Saudi Arabia

Jail, lashes for Saudi over celebratory fire

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Unprecedented ruling marks stronger resolve to address tradition of firing into the air to celebrate a happy occasion

Manama: In the first ruling of its kind, a court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced a young man to one month in prison for firing celebratory shots into the air.

The court in the western city of Khurmah also ruled 100 lashes for the defendant for breaking the law.

The young man was spotted by the police during the wedding celebration, but managed to flee the area, Saudi daily Okaz reported on Thursday.

However, the police were able to register the number of the licence plate, which enabled them to arrest him later.

Saudi Arabia has been pushing for an end to the deep-rooted tradition of firing wildly into the air to celebrate a happy occasion.

The culturally encouraged and widespread practice has often resulted in accidental deaths.

In May last year, a wedding celebration in Saudi Arabia turned into a tragedy after one man was killed and two were injured by celebratory fire.

Police in the province of Aseer said the death and injuries occurred as a group of people were celebrating a wedding by firing shots into the air.

In April this year, a wedding party in the Saudi kingdom a similar tragedy was narrowly avoided after the groom’s brother lost control of his Kalashnikov in celebratory fire.

A 30-second clip posted on social media showed the brother walking alongside bridegroom towards the wedding hall while firing one bullet at a time in the air in jubilation and to show off his skills.

However, he suddenly lost control of the Kalashnikov and unleashed a hail of bullets that ricocheted off the wall, prompting the guests to look for cover to avoid being struck.

Saudi Arabia said that it wanted an end to tragedies by banning the firing tradition.

All governorates, districts as well as relevant security and investigation agencies have been asked to apply the rules against anyone who fires during special occasions and wedding ceremonies.

The authorities have assigned policemen to monitor palaces, wedding halls and relaxation areas to ensure full compliance with the law amid warnings that whoever breaks the law will be severely punished.

The decision for the zero-tolerance policy was made following a noticeable increase in the incidence of fatal and serious injuries to innocent people by stray bullets during public celebrations.

The celebratory gunfire is a violation of public order, Saudi officials said in their latest stern warning.

Celebratory gunfire is common in the Middle East, but it is also a cultural feature in South Asia and South America.

A study into the threats of falling bullets in the US found that they can reach speeds of 100 metres per second and can penetrate the skin at about 55 metres per second and the skull at about 70 metres per second.

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