Twitter accounts Saudi Arabia religious police
More than 10,000 Twitter accounts closed by Saudi Arabia's religious police in 2014Getty Images

Saudi Arabia's religious police have closed at least 10,117 Twitter accounts in 2014 over religious violations.

Turki Al-Shulail, spokesman of The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (Haia), explained that some users were also arrested.

What is the Haia?

The Haia is Saudi Arabia's agency that employs the "religious police", or Mutaween, who are in charge of making sure that sharia law is obeyed in the kingdom.

The Mutaween have the power to arrest people who engage in homosexual acts, prostitution, fornication and try to convert to other religious than Islam.

The religious police are often criticised with many claiming they abuse their power and that extremists have infiltrated the Haia.

In one instance in 2002, 15 girls died after the Mutaween refused to let them out of a burning public school in Mecca, claiming they were not properly covered.

Mutaween can be recognised as they wear traditional middle eastern headscarf known as keffiyeh.

"Users were committing religious and ethical violations," he told Arab News.

"Haia blocked and arrested some of their owners. However, it was hard to follow all the accounts due to the advanced security used in this kind of social media."

"The IT crime department at Haia played a major role to close these accounts," al-Shulail continued. "Our unit is divided into two sections: The first receives reports and complaints from citizens and residents and the second one monitors and does follow-up operations through websites and software applications."

Al-Shulail explained that IT-related crimes are punishable with prison sentences of over five years and fines up to SR3 million (£508,755).

"The crimes include religious or moral violations via the Internet. The number of these accounts has increased during the last five years and there is a need to put an end to them and arrest the users who publish material against our religion and society," he concluded.

In February, the Haia was praised for having created a committee in charge of preventing cyber crimes, such as the spread of pornography, magic and sorcery on social media.