MAKKAH: A Saudi citizen was arrested and has been referred to the Public Prosecution for facilitating the entry of a non-Muslim journalist into Makkah, violating the country’s law that prohibits non-Muslims from entering the city, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Friday.
“Makkah region’s police has referred a citizen to the Public Prosecution, who was a complicit in transferring and facilitating the entry of a (non-Muslim) journalist [who] holds the citizenship of the United States of America to the holy city of Makkah by passing through a path dedicated for Muslims only in an explicit violation of the laws that prohibit entry to Makkah for non-Muslims,” the SPA statement said.
“Therefore, he was apprehended, and legal action was taken against him,” the statement added.
The spokesperson for the Makkah Police warned that foreigners coming to Saudi Arabia must respect and abide by the country’s laws, especially with regard to the Masjid Al Haram in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina.
Anyone violation of the non-Muslim entry ban will not be tolerated and perpetrators will be penalized, the spokesperson added.
The journalist who committed the crime has also been referred to the Public Prosecution and the necessary procedures will be implemented, the SPA statement said.
The France-based AFP news agency had previously reported that journalist Gil Tamary – who works for Israel’s Channel 13 – had posted a video of himself on Twitter sneaking into Makkah.
In the video, Tamary was seen climbing Mount Arafat – a sacred site where Muslims gather during Hajj – and talking about how he had always wanted to visit Makkah.
After the video garnered widespread criticism online, the journalist apologized in a tweet and said he had not intended to offend Muslims but wanted to “showcase the importance of Mecca and the beauty of the religion.”
Israel distances itself from TV report
On Wednesday, an Israeli minister had denounced Tamary’s report as “stupid and harmful” to Israel-Gulf ties.
“I’m sorry (but) it was a stupid thing to do and take pride in,” Israel’s regional cooperation minister Esawi Freij, who is Muslim, told public broadcaster Kan.
“It was irresponsible and damaging to air this report just for the sake of ratings.”
Freij said the report hurt US-encouraged efforts to gradually move Israel and Saudi Arabia towards more normal ties.
Tamary was in Jeddah covering US President Joe Biden’s visit. He later apologised for his act, saying he had not intended to offend Muslims.
“If anyone takes offence to this video, I deeply apologise,” he wrote in English on Twitter.