Saudis Hold 5 Britons for Alcohol Smuggling

Saudi authorities have been holding five British citizens for about a month on suspicion they smuggled alcohol into the country — a crime punishable by 80 lashes — security officials said today.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, did not give the suspects’ names. They said the five men have been held since the first week of December.

Alcohol is banned in Saudi Arabia, which follows a strict interpretation of Islam. The punishment for smuggling alcohol into Saudi Arabia is a flogging of 80 lashes.

Foreigners caught smuggling alcohol in the past were tried, flogged and deported

Last month, Saudi Deputy Interior Minister Prince Ahmed said a number of foreigners were detained in the kingdom. But he said those detained were being questioned for their possible involvement in recent bombings targeting British citizens.

Three bombings left a British man dead and wounded four of his compatriots in Saudi Arabia between Nov. 17 and Dec. 15.

A U.S. citizen is being questioned for a possible role in the bombings.

The officials said the five Britons being held on alcohol charges have no links to the bombings.