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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 15 November 2018

Saudi Arabia arrests 17 Filipinas over Halloween party

The women are being held at the Al Nisa prison in Riyadh

An image taken from social media reportedly showing Halloween celebrations in Saudi Arabia.
An image taken from social media reportedly showing Halloween celebrations in Saudi Arabia.

Seventeen Filipinas are being held at a prison in Saudi Arabia over a Halloween party held inside a Riyadh compound, the Philippines Foreign Ministry confirmed on Tuesday.

The Philippine Embassy in Riyadh said the 17 women are being held at the Al Nisa prison in the Saudi capital, the statement from Manila said.

Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Adnan Alonto said the 17 were “among a number of persons who were taken into custody by Saudi intelligence operatives who raided a compound in Riyadh where the Halloween party was taking place”.

Philippine officials have been requesting access to the detained nationals without success.

The statement from Manila reminded expatriate workers to respect local customs and laws in the Middle East. In Saudi, unattached males and females are prohibited from being seen together in public.

More than one million Philippine nationals work in Saudi Arabia, which has the highest population of workers from the Asian country in the Middle East.

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Saudi intelligence agents raided the compound after neighbours complained about noise coming from the complex.

Manila did not confirm what charges have been filed against those detained. But it said initial indications suggested the organisers of the gathering have been charged with holding an event without a permit and for disturbing the neighbourhood.

Shortly after the raid, images emerged online of party-goers dressed as zombie nuns and ghouls.

Riyadh police were concerned by "disorderly conduct" and "the use of masks and strange costumes", a spokesman said in a statement.

Many Saudis voiced their displeasure on Twitter following the online publication of photos of the costumed partygoers, who were reportedly attendees of the Riyadh party. Others voiced concern that the party may have been serving alcohol, which is illegal in the Kingdom.