Two Saudis to be given 1,000 lashes, jailed over Iran sex case

RIYADH (AFP) - Two Saudi Arabian airport workers have been jailed for four years each and will be lashed 1,000 times for sexually harassing two teenage Iranian boys, a report said on Wednesday.

Saudi news website Sabq said a criminal court in the Red Sea city of Jeddah issued the verdict.

Authorities in April began legal proceedings against two police officers after allegations of "sexual harassment" against the two pilgrims at Jeddah's airport, official media reported at the time.

The case prompted Iran's culture minister to say his country had suspended pilgrimages to Muslim holy places in Saudi Arabia "until the criminals are tried and punished".

Iranian media reported that the incident occurred as the youths prepared to return home after a pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina in late March.

About 500,000 Iranians perform the umrah, or lesser pilgrimage, annually.

Saudi Arabia's interior ministry had vowed that the kingdom's Islamic-based legal system would "ensure the strictest penalties for perpetrators of these type of crimes, which are condemned by all sectors of Saudi Muslim society".

Tensions between Sunni Saudi Arabia and its Shi'ite regional rival Iran have increased since late March, when the kingdom began to lead an Arab-dominated coalition in air strikes against Iran-backed Shi'ite rebels in neighbouring Yemen.