RIYADH (Reuters) - A Saudi court has sentenced an employee of the kingdom's religious police to 120 lashes for marrying six women.
The man said he was not educated enough to know that Islam does not allow men to marry more than four women at any one time, said an official at Ahad al-Massarha court in the southern province of Jazan.
"The judge did not believe him. Nobody believed him. I honestly did not," the official told Reuters.
The court banned the man from standing as a preacher and leading prayers, ordered him not to travel abroad for a five-year period and to memorise two chapters from the Koran.
The accused, in his fifties, is not a member of the Saudi Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice's morals squad but holds an administrative position there, the official said.
Shaikh Abdul-Mohsen al-Qaffari, spokesman of the virtue and vice commission, said it was the commission that discovered the case. Judge Salman al-Waadani, who pronounced the sentence, could not be reached for comment.
The court official said, "Members of the commission were accompanied by police when they arrested the man with one of his wives but it was the governor of Jazan who ordered an investigation onto the case".
The commission makes sure Saudi society abides by an austere interpretation of Islam in the kingdom, where clerics control the justice system.
With more than 5,000 members, its squads roam streets and shopping malls to make sure unrelated men and women are kept apart, that shops and restaurants are shut at prayer time, that women are covered from head to toe and to search for alcohol and drugs.
Islam allows polygamy for men on condition the wives are treated fairly.
(Reporting by Souhail Karam; Editing by Louise Ireland)