Iran cleric `lashed in Saudi Arabia`

The cleric said he was held for "raising a shoe" at Prophet Mohammed shrine.

Tehran: An Iranian Shi’ite cleric has said he was jailed and lashed in Saudi Arabia last year after being arrested for "raising a shoe" at Prophet Mohammed`s shrine, media reported on Saturday.

Yasser Khalili said he was arrested while on pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia by the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice and "jailed for 38 days, in handcuffs, and lashed”, the conservative Qods newspaper reported.

In a separate interview with Iran`s English language channel Press TV on Thursday, the cleric said he had been arrested on July 27 and put on trial on September 03, 2010.

Khalili said he has been charged with "raising a shoe" at Prophet Mohammed`s shrine.

"The judge had ordered for me to be whipped 150 times in public in the prophet`s shrine. So one day they took me to the yard in prison and whipped me there," he said.

Khalili did not say when he had been freed and returned to Iran.

"It was clear that raising one`s shoes was not a crime. It was clear there was no such crime, and it was made up and tailored to fit my case," he added, without elaborating.

Khalili said he had travelled to Saudi Arabia with a group of 140 Iranian clerics.

Iran has repeatedly criticised Saudi`s treatment of Iranian pilgrims and in January 2010 temporarily suspended pilgrimages to the Muslim holy places over the "appalling behaviour" of the Saudi religious police.

Saudi Arabia is governed according to an ultra-strict version of Sunni Islam and relies on the religious police of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice to enforce such rules.

Saudi officials have denied the accusation, but Saudi clerics have routinely condemned the practices of Shi’ites as not Islamic.

Every year, scores of Iranians visit the country for the annual hajj or the less pilgrimage of umra which can be carried out throughout the year.

Bureau Report