Saudi actor Abdul Aziz Al Kassar explains how he was arrested in a mall

Manama: A Saudi actor who was arrested in a shopping mall in the capital Riyadh for mixing with unrelated women said that he had not expected the “overwhelming” welcome that caused the melee.

Abdul Aziz Al Kassar, who lives in Kuwait, was on Friday evening arrested by members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, the religious police, as he was being mobbed by several women who were taking pictures and selfies with him.

The members said that the artist who was on a working visit to Riyadh was disturbing public order, mixing with women unrelated to him and abusing social media, and remanded him to custody.

However, Al Kassar who was later released, told Gulf Rotana private television station that he had arrived on Thursday in Saudi Arabia on a work trip.

“I asked my followers on Snapchat about the best mall to visit and they recommended Al Nakheel, so I took up their suggestion and said on the social media that I was going there on Friday,” he said. “However, I did not expect to find so many people waiting for me. I want to clarify that the presence of young women at the mall was not something under my control. When I stepped in, several fans came over and surrounded me until someone came over and pulled me aside into a room that I learned was reserved for the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice inside the mall. I understood that the man who pulled me was a member of the commission and I did not resist him out of my respect for the Commission,” he said, quoted by Saudi news site Al Marsad on Tuesday.

Al Kassar added that the members of the Commission and mall officials should have warned him about the presence of the large number of fans.

“They did not tell me to stay away and that not meeting them was better,” he said. “They initially took away my mobile, but returned it to me [later].”

Al Kassar was given bail, but he will have to wait until the prosecution ends its investigation into the case, particularly now that the Commission had accused him of using social media to meet women and take pictures with them inside the mall in flagrant violation of the rules.

The actor has played several roles in Kuwaiti dramas and presented programmes in the country. He is active on social media and the number of his followers has increased following the incident at the Riyadh mall.