Saudi Arabia’s Arab News (the English language paper) has gone strangely quiet on this, even as CNN interviews their staff. No mention has been made in the Arab News that Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, has called for a judicial review of the whole sentencing of the girl and who noted that:
There are problems like this in the justice system of every country, even America [indeed, given the number of prisoners being freed by access to DNA evidence that was not available at the time of their trial I can well agree with him here] and this matter is not finalised yet. We know hope that the judicial review will bring in the correct verdict for justice in this case.
The way this was spoken on the news clip suggested almost that he was directing the way the appeal should go.
In any case, the Arab News has gone quiet, even as their reporters were being interviewed on CNN. To be fair, the reporter interviewed (and I have forgotten her name I will admit) did correct CNN on air, and CNN left that in the news clip as well.
One thing that is always a worry in the Kingdom here is the effect that the wealthy and powerful have on things, even the juducuary it seems. The first thought about this is the light sentencing originally given to rapers and the fact that the court sentenced the woman to any penalty.
This case has really opened a lot of discussion here with the woman’s lawyer appearing on Lebanese TV presenting his side of the case against an ex-judge. One of the things the ex-judge pointed out was that the court was trying to protect the husbands honour, especially as the woman had supposedly been in a private place with an unrelated man. The woman’s husband then telephoned the show and basically said the judges were wrong.
The CNN report noted:
A Saudi court will review the case of a teenage gang rape victim sentenced to jail and flogging after she was convicted of violating the country’s strict sex segregation laws, the foreign minister said Tuesday.
The remarks by Prince Saud al-Faisal, made in the United States and carried by the official Saudi Press Agency, were the latest in response to a salvo of international condemnation of Saudi judicial authorities’ handling of the case.
It was also a sharp turn from a statement Saturday in which the Saudi Justice Ministry condemned the 19-year-old woman as an adulteress who had allegedly confessed to cheating on her husband. She was raped by seven men and then sentenced to six months prison and 200 lashes.
The CNN report further noted that:
Justice in Saudi Arabia is administered by a system of religious courts and judges appointed by the king on the recommendation of the Supreme Judicial Council. Those courts and judges have complete discretion to set sentences, except in cases where Sharia outlines a punishment, such as capital crimes.
That means that no two judges would likely hand down the same sentence for similar crimes. A rapist, for instance, could receive anywhere from a light or no sentence to death, depending on the judge’s discretion.
I always thought the Sharia penalty for rape was a sentence of death.