Police have arrested 20 men after raiding what was described as the wedding party of two men in the town of Jizan, in the south of the Gulf kingdom.

Al Watan newspaper reports that some 400 men were attending an underground gay event in the town when the authorities struck.

Some 250 people were detained but later released. The remaining 20 will be charged, and could face jail and being lashed.

Police sources said those detained had been ‘emulating women’. Other guests had been chewing the illegal narcotic qat, whose use is widespread in neighbouring Yemen.

Homosexuality is illegal in conservative Saudi Arabia, which metes out strict punishments based on sharia, or Islamic law.

Last April, a court in Saudi Arabia sentenced two Saudis, one Yemeni and a Jordanian to two years in jail and 2 000 lashes after a police raid on an alleged gay party.