Authorities reportedly arrested a 19-year-old Saudi Arabian teenager for flirting online with a 21-year-old American female.
Riyadh police arrested the teenager, known online as Abu Sin, for engaging in “unethical behavior” with Christina Crockett on the live-streaming site YouNow, reports The Guardian.
Riyadh police spokesperson Colonel Fawaz Al-Mayman told the Saudi Gazette that Abu Sin’s online appearances “received many comments and many of the commenters of the general public demanded for him to be punished for his actions.”
Crockett and Abu Sin attracted thousands of fans on the YouNow network, and their playful communications went viral after they were uploaded on YouTube.
“I guested this kid," Crockett said in an interview with The Guardian. "I don’t know what he’s saying because I don’t speak Arabic, [but] everyone thought he was really funny, and everyone liked him, and I guess this video went viral."
“He didn’t speak much English, so I was trying to get him to understand what I was saying most of the time; it wasn’t that good communication,” she explained. “He was dancing and being funny, we would both dance on there because we can’t communicate with words. It was pretty funny.”
Abu Sin faces up to three years in prison, according to a lawyer cited by the Arabic-language newspaper Okaz.
The prospect of the boy’s arrest is “pretty upsetting,” Crockett said, adding that she doesn't think he deserves it.
Online commenters are blaming her for his misfortune, according to Crockett.
“They say, 'I hate you for what you did, why were you talking to him, this is your fault that he went to jail,' all that stuff," she told The Guardian. "I don’t see it as my fault, I talk to everyone in my guest queue.”
Abu Sin is not the only Saudi citizen in hot water for using social media in violation of the country’s notoriously controversial laws.
In January 2016, a Saudi blogger named Raif Badawi received a 50-lash public flogging as part of his sentence of 1,000 lashes, reports Amnesty International, the leading international human rights organization.
Another man, Mikhlif bin Daham al-Shammari, was imprisoned for two years and received a flogging of 200 lashes for “violating instructions by the rulers by holding a private gathering and tweeting.”
The leading human rights organization summarizes the general Saudi legal climate as follows: “Courts [continue] to impose cruel and inhuman punishments, such as flogging, as discretionary additional punishments for many offences, including slander, insult and sexual harassment.”