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Saudi police arrest 'online cross-dresser'

Saudi police did not name the man arrested for cross-dressing, but said citizens had complained of him wearing inappropriate clothes
A Saudi woman walks past women's clothes shop in Riyadh (AFP)

Saudi police have arrested a man on public order charges after he was accused of cross-dressing online, a report in the conservative Islamic kingdom said late on Monday.

Police in Qassim, northwest of the capital Riyadh, "arrested a famous Snapchat personality who appeared in video clips dressed like women," the Sabq online newspaper reported.

The publication, which is close to authorities, quoted the Qassim police spokesman as saying the suspect was detained "for producing and distributing material insulting to public order".

Sabq did not identify the suspect but said citizens had complained about his dressing "inappropriately".

In April, the government stripped the kingdom's frequently criticised religious police of the power of arrest but strict moral codes remain in effect.

Members of the Haia force, among whose duties was to monitor people's dress, can now only offer advice and report suspected violators to regular police for prosecution.

In June, police in the Muslim holy city of Mecca arrested 50 young men for haircuts, necklaces and other adornments considered un-Islamic, Sabq reported at the time.

Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy and one of the world's most conservative countries.

Women dress from head to toe in black and are not allowed to drive or mingle with men they are not related to.

But more than half of Saudi citizens are under the age of 25, an internet-savvy generation that spends much of its life online away from official strictures.

One of the kingdom's most powerful figures, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 31, is leading a reform drive dubbed "Vision 2030" to diversify the economy and also bring social change.

The plan calls for more entertainment, cultural and sports opportunities.

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