Saudi Justice?

Picture this. Young girl, about 16 years old, has a friendship with a boy. What happened during that friendship is not important really but during that time, the boy took some photos of the girl.

Some time passes. The girl is 18 and gets married. The boy contacts her and says something like “hi, I’ve got these photos of you and I intend to put them on the Internet unless you do something for me”. The girl persuades the boy to give the photos back to avoid any shame to her husband. To make sure that she is reasonably safe she arranges to meet the boy at a shopping mall. Of course, I don’t know why she didn’t just ask the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice to collect the photos as this is something they claim to do discretely.

Whilst meeting the boy, however, she and the fellow are bundled into a vehicle by a gang of seven men, driven away and both are raped by the group. With the support of her husband, she goes to the police and reports the crime and the seven men are arrested. Along comes the court case and the result is that the men are found guilty but given a light sentence and she is given 90 lashes. The reason for the lashes? She was alone with an unrelated man.

She appeals the light sentence that the men receive. The result of the appeal? The men have their penalty increased, her lawyer has his license suspended (for talking to the press) and her penalty is increased to 6 months in gaol and 200 lashes – because the lawyer spoke to the press.

Lest anybody think I am making this up, check the Arab News article “Rape Victim’s Lawyer Refuses to Give In” from today’s issue. Abdul Rahman Al-Lahem, the lawyer, criticized the General Court in Qatif for confiscating his license to practice law. At the same time, the General Court in Qatif read the verdict of the appeal from the Saudi Higher Court, which was the Court that increased the woman’s penalty.

Al-Lahem went on to note:

“Basic Islamic law states that an appeal shall not harm the person appealing,” said Al-Lahem, adding that lodging an appeal is the right of anyone accused of a crime and something crucial for a just trial. “Once this rule is ignored, then people who appeal verdicts are only left terrorized. From now on people will be apprehensive to appeal fearing they might be punished or have their sentences doubled. That’s exactly what’s happened to the rape victim, who only wanted justice,” he said.

The lawyer said that the Higher Court claimed that the woman being with a non-related male in the first place was the reason behind her rape. According to Saudi law, non-related men and women are not permitted to meet in private, a concept known as “khalwa.”

“This does not make sense at all,” said the lawyer, referring to the Higher Court ruling. “The police investigation records clearly state that the girl was with a non-related male friend in a public place when they were both abducted and later raped. This no doubt clears the girl from accusations that she was in khalwa,” he said.

This is at the same time as the King is trying to increase the investments of foreigners into Saudi Arabia and to encourage more foreign businessmen to come to the Kingdom to help its development. However, this case, and the cases last year where the courts were annulling marriages at the request of family members and against the will of the married couple (Fatima and Mansour in particular) shows exactly how barbaric the Saudi justice system is.

These judges (who do not have a background in the law but are more likely religious scholars) actually make the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice actually look good.

Still, CNN is covering the story now so you’ll all know at least that I am telling the truth.

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