Saudis Jail Kenyan Man for Chatting with Woman on Phone

AP Photo
AP Photo

20-year-old Juma Laki is a Kenyan who traveled to Saudi Arabia in 2013, looking for work. He just learned the hard way that chatting with a woman and keeping her photo on his smartphone is an “apparent contravention of the Sunni kingdom’s puritanical laws,” as Kenya’s Standard Digital puts it. After a friend sold him out to the Saudi “special police,” Laki found himself in jail.

Laki’s mother, Khadija Rashid, says her son has not been formally charged with a crime and has not appeared in court. There is no indication in the Standard Digital article of when he might be given a day in court, or released from jail.

Laki has evidently been working regularly in Saudi Arabia for some time, returning a substantial sum to help his family every month. “My husband, who used to work with Telkom Kenya, died in 1995, and I have been solely responsible for bringing up Laki and his four sisters,” his mother explained. “I am heart-broken ever since I got news about his incarceration in a foreign jail.”

The family has appealed to Haki Africa, a Kenyan human-rights organization, for assistance, after pleading with their government for help. A Haki Africa official explained that Kenyan agents are notorious for recruiting youths to work in oil-rich Gulf states, collecting a commission for their efforts, and then abandoning their young charges to the mercy of harsh regimes whose laws they don’t fully understand.