Saudi Customs apologizes for moving patient to sidewalk

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The viral photo shows the patient lying on the pavement at Al-Haditha Customs.

Saudi Gazette report

ARAR — Saudi Customs apologized to the family of a patient who was removed from a car to the sidewalk during a routine inspection at Al-Haditha crossing at the Kingdom's northern border.

The apology came after a viral picture of the patient lying on the ground sparked uproar on social media.

Officials said Al-Haditha Customs is equipped with places reserved for patients and people with special needs, who are treated with utmost care. "These places are for use during the completion of customs procedures by incoming and outgoing passengers. Customs outlets, including Al-Haditha, are supported by high-resolution radiography equipment that help complete the inspection procedures quickly," the customs directorate said in a statement published by Al-Riyadh newspaper.

Clarifying the details of the incident that created the social media outrage, the statement said the passenger arrived at Al-Haditha by car around 5:30 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017, and completed the procedures in about an hour.

During the inspection, the officers grew suspicious of the driver and wanted to carry out a thorough check of the vehicle. The driver was asked to take the passenger to the room reserved for people with special needs, but he refused.

He also rejected the request for an ambulance saying the passenger's condition was long-term and did not require any immediate medical intervention, the statement added.

The officers were then surprised by the behavior of the driver, who pulled the invalid passenger out of the car and laid him on the pavement.

The statement said the customs inspectors insisted on checking the car because there had been several incidents in the past where criminals had exploited humanitarian cases to smuggle banned substances into the country.

"Saudi Customs handles such cases in a careful manner ensuring the health and safety of the people involved," it said.

Salim Hamdan, the patient's brother, told Al-Riyadh that he received a phone call from a customs coordinator after his brother's picture went viral on social media. Hamdan said the officer apologized to him and his brother for what had happened and assured that the incident would be investigated.

However, Hamdan said it was not the first time his brother had been treated in such manner during his trips between hospitals in Jordan and Arar.


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