Saudi Arabia's Barida police arrested 20 men and women over the weekend for taking part in a dance party at a local café, Al Watan news site reported

The private mixed-gender event prompted authorities to take action against those detained just 48 hours after their arrest. The case was quickly referred to the country's public prosecution office, who then handed it over to a court, where a judge gave various sentences to those involved. 

Punishments ranged from four to 11 months in jail. Many arrestees were ordered to pay minimum fines of 20,000 riyals ($5,332). 

Several media outlets reported the presence of alcohol at the party, but reiterated that the sentences were handed down due to the fact that men and women were in the same room.

Updated news reports on the case stated that after sentencing, jail terms handed out to defendants were reduced in a bid to help "reform" their behavior. 

The arrests and subsequent trial left people divided on Saudi Twitter. Some were pro the decisions and thought those involved in the incident had violated the kingdom's rules. However, others defended those detained and thought the issue could've been dealt with in a different manner.

"They deserve this. Take stricter action against them so that other people learn too"

"Good on them"

Some online users defended those arrested

"It looks like it was a Ramadan event but you misunderstood it." 

"It's called a 'private café,' so why arrest and punish them"

"How was this reported to authorities given that it's a private event that doesn't threaten security or hurt anyone in anyway?"

Saudi Arabia has been closing in on mixed-gender parties

This certainly isn't the first time a mixed-gender event leads to arrests in the kingdom - which still imposes gender segregation in several of its public spaces including schools and universities.

Backlash against such gatherings often prompts authorities to take action against individuals or companies who host them. In 2017, authorities in Jazan Governorate ordered the immediate closure of a resort that hosted a licensed concert attended by both men and women.

In 2018, a café in Jeddah was shut down after it hosted a "loud mixed-gender party."