Municipal authorities say they are investigating after claims of excessive force by a member of the local security forces in provincial Riyadh
Authorities in Saudi Arabia have come under intense public pressure to act after a video appearing to show a government official shocking a trader with a Taser gun went viral on Friday.
The video shows a man, appearing to wear the uniform of the municipal security forces, using his electric stun gun on another man after a car accident.
The vegetable seller, who had been driving a truck full of produce, is seen running away screaming at the end of the video.
The incident reportedly took place on Thursday in provincial Riyadh.
The video has been shared tens of thousands of times, with the associated Twitter hashtag “Supervisor Electrocutes a Citizen” trending worldwide for several hours on Friday.
Many users condemned the officer, accusing him of using excessive force to punish the trader.
— مسفر بن ذعار #احوازي (@mesferal3jmi) May 13, 2016
Translation: Is he a terrorist? Is he corrupt? Has he stolen government money? Just a person driving around God’s sustenance!
Many social media users have supported the electrocuted man, suggesting that he was subject to punishment because he is a vegetable trader.
— أبو شلاخ الليبرالي (@AboShla5Libraly) May 13, 2016
Translation: Dragged [from his car], then hit, then shocked. All this just because he is a poor man transporting vegetables. This evil thug must be brought to trial
Amid a growing scandal surrounding the video, authorities in Riyadh responded on Friday, pledging to hold the officer accountable.
— أمانة منطقة الرياض (@Amanatalriyadh) May 13, 2016
Translation: The behaviour of the official who shocked a citizen is unacceptable. He will be prosecuted for his actions, which violate standards, once he is identified
Some said the video showed the actions of an individual officer rather than a wider policy.
Some, however, called for investigations higher up the chain of responsibility within the Riyadh Municipality, the local body in charge of policy and security in the province.
هذا تصرف فردي لا يمثل الأمانه واتمنى أخذ الأجراء اللازم فيه او محاسبة رئيسه المسؤول عنه#مراقب_امانه_يصعق_مواطن
— عبدالعزيز بن سعد (@Azizs33d) May 13, 2016
Translation: This is the behaviour of an individual, and does not represent the municipality. I hope the necessary regulations are taken against him, or that the boss responsible for him is brought to account
A video sparked a similar wave of protest on social media in February, after a member of the religious police was shown beating a woman in the street after she reportedly refused to cover her face.
Many accused the religious police of overstepping their authority by publicly beating the woman, with some accusing the officer of exposing the woman’s body during the attack – this would be seen as a shocking act in Riyadh, one of the more conservative cities in Saudi Arabia.
The video and ensuing public pressure led to the arrest of four officers, and in April authorities moved to curb the power of the religious police, calling on the body to be more “gentle” – members of the force are no longer allowed to pursue or arrest people for breaking their strict behavioural code.