(CNN) — The Saudi Justice Ministry issued a “clarification” of a court’s handling of a rape case and the increased punishment — including 200 lashes –meted out to the victim.
The case, which has sparked media scrutiny of the Saudi legal system, centers on a married woman. The 19-year-old and an unrelated man were abducted, and she was raped by a group of seven men more than a year ago, according to Abdulrahman al-Lahim, the attorney who represented her in court.
The woman was originally sentenced in October 2006 to 90 lashes. But that sentence was more than doubled to 200 lashes and six months in prison by the Qatif General Court, because she spoke to the media about the case, a court source told Middle Eastern daily newspaper Arab News.
Al-Lahim told CNN his law license was revoked last week by a judge because he spoke to the Saudi-controlled media about the case.
(BBC News, November 21, 2007) – Authorities in Saudi Arabia have defended a judicial sentence of 200 lashes for a rape victim. The justice ministry said in a statement that the sentence was justified because the woman was in a car with an unrelated man.
The case has aroused controversy at home and condemnation abroad. US presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton said the sentence was an outrage and urged President Bush to put pressure on Saudi King Abdullah.
The Saudi justice ministry has defended the verdict and warned against “agitation through the media” – a sign of how sensitive the authorities are to the fact that the woman and her lawyer have sought to use the media to highlight the case, says BBC Middle East analyst Roger Hardy.
Meanwhile, Mrs Clinton, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination in the US presidential elections, strongly condemned the Saudi sentence. “The Bush administration has refused to condemn the sentence and said it will not protest against an internal Saudi decision,” she said.
(New York, November 17, 2007) – A court in Saudi Arabia doubled its sentence of lashings for a rape victim who had spoken out in public about her case and her efforts to seek justice. The court also harassed her lawyer, banning him from the case and confiscating his professional license.
Human Rights Watch called on King Abdullah to immediately void the verdict and drop all charges against the rape victim and to order the court to end its harassment of her lawyer.
“A courageous young woman faces lashing and prison for speaking out about her efforts to find justice,” said Farida Deif, researcher in the women’s rights division of Human Rights Watch. “This verdict not only sends victims of sexual violence the message that they should not press charges, but in effect offers protection and impunity to the perpetrators.”
Moreover, the court in October 2006 also sentenced both the woman and man who had been raped to 90 lashes each for what it termed “illegal mingling.” Human Rights Watch is particularly concerned that the criminalization of any contact between unmarried individuals of the opposite sex in Saudi Arabia severely impedes the ability of rape victims to seek justice. A court may view a woman’s charge of rape as an admission of extramarital sexual relations (or “illegal mingling”) unless she can prove, by strict evidentiary standards, that this contact was legal and the intercourse was nonconsensual.
21 November 2007
Press Release: New Zealand Government
Prime Minister Helen Clark said today that she has asked New Zealand diplomats to raise dismay over the sentencing of a 19-year-old Saudi rape victim.
“New Zealand fully respects the judicial system of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and notes that the case is still working its way through the courts,” Helen Clark said.
“Nonetheless I hope that justice will prevail and that the young woman, who is the victim in this case, will be shown leniency by the Saudi judiciary.
“I have asked the New Zealand Embassy in Riyadh to make appropriate representations to the relevant Saudi authorities, to work with like-minded embassies in raising our concerns, and to seek compassion for the young woman.
“I hope the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will demonstrate benevolence and compassion in this case.
“I am also concerned to ensure the woman receives appropriate legal assistance, given that her lawyer had his law license revoked last week,” Helen Clark said.