Bahrain to criminalise sorcery, witchcraft

Maktoob News Mar 30, 2010

DUBAI – Bahrain’s advisory Shura Council on Monday approved a bill that will formally criminalise sorcery and witchcraft, Gulf Daily News reported, a move likely to anger rights groups that have slammed similar legislation in neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

Shura Council members, appointed by the king, gave the nod to a new article of the Penal Code that will allow courts to hand down jail terms and fines to anyone convicted of such offences, the newspaper said.

The bill defines sorcery and witchcraft as acts “paranormal to scientific and religious beliefs”, according to the newspaper.

Council members said the bill would “give judges all the tools to decide the necessary punishment”, Gulf Daily News reported.

Parliament passed the bill last year. The king still needs to approve the bill before it can become law.

Sorcery and witchcraft are forbidden in Islam and in the conservative Muslim kingdom of Saudi Arabia anyone convicted of such practices are severely punished.

In a high-profile case last year, a Saudi court sentenced a Lebanese TV show personality, Ali Sabat, to death for giving advice on life and predictions about the future.

Human Rights Watch is a vocal critic of Saudi Arabia’s campaign against sorcery and witchcraft, describing laws as vaguely defined and arbitrarily used.

The U.S.-based group has accused Saudi courts of “sanctioning a literal witch hunt by the religious police”.

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