A Saudi Arabian woman must be accompanied by a male
guardian — typically relative — at all times in public. The rape victim
violated this law by meeting a friend to retrieve a picture.
A 19-year-old gang rape victim was sentenced to 200
lashes and to six months in jail for the crime of indecency and speaking to the
By, The Clarion Project | h/t to Jennifer L. Kopp
Saudi Arabia defended a controversial verdict
sentencing a 19-year-old gang rape victim to 200 lashes and six months in jail.
The Shi’ite Muslim woman had initially been sentenced to 90 lashes after being
convicted of violating Saudi Arabia’s rigid Islamic Sharia law on segregation
of the sexes.
The decision handed down by the Saudi General Court
more than doubled her sentence last week. The court also roughly doubled the
prison sentences for the seven men convicted of raping her, Saudi media said.
The upholding of a decision to punish the victim
triggered international outcry.
Canada said it would complain to Saudi authorities
about the sentence, described as “barbaric”’ by Jose Verger, the Canadian minister
responsible for the status of women.
The New York based Human Rights Watch said the
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
While not directly criticizing the Saudi Arabia’s
judiciary, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said, “I think when
you look at the crime and the fact that now the victim is punished, I think
that causes a fair degree of surprise and astonishment. It is within the power
of the Saudi government to take a look at the verdict and change it.”
However, the Saudi judiciary stood by its decision.
“The Ministry of Justice welcomes constructive criticism, away from emotions,”
it said in a statement.
The statement also said that the “charges were
proven” against the woman for having been in a car with a strange male, and
repeated criticism of her lawyer for talking “defiantly” about the judicial
system, saying “it has shown ignorance.”
The woman’s lawyer, Abdul Rahman al-Lahem, reached
out to the media. The court has since banned him from further defending the
woman, confiscating his license and summoning him to a disciplinary hearing
later this month.
The justice ministry implied the victim’s sentence was
increased because she had spoken out to the press. “For whoever has an
objection on verdicts issued, the system allows to appeal without resorting to
the media,” said the statement carried on the official Saudi Press Agency.
The rape took place in 2006. The victim said it
occurred as she tried to retrieve her picture from a male high school student
she used to know.
While in a car with the student, two men got into the
vehicle and drove them to a secluded area. She said she was raped there by
seven men, three of whom also attacked her friend.
The case was referred back to the General Court by an
appeals court last summer, after the woman’s lawyer contested the initial
verdict, saying it was too lenient for the rapists and unjust for the victim.
It was just brought to my attention that the male friend of the female
in this occurrence was also raped and he received the same punishment as she