More on the Qatif Girl

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.

More on Saudi Justice

It seems that the Ministry of Justice has been stung to make comment about the ruling in the Qatif Girl rape case. See New Ministry Statement on Qatif Case in the Arab News (also being reported on CNN amongst other places).

Seems the official release from the Ministry of Justice notes that the woman and man were not accosted at the mall but rather in a dark area near the beach where the woman’s clothes were on the ground. This, of course, was too much for the seven men discovering her so they immediately raped her.

The woman was not married but rather engaged at this time. However, the court felt that what happened was per and her companions fault as well, hence the increased penalty on her (still seems like she is being penalised for being raped – really, I can see now where the old Mad Mufti of Australia must have got is religious interpretations from).

So, it appears now as though it was all the woman’s fault. Well, except for the fact that the Ministry of Justice are now contradicting the police reports about this crime that noted that the woman and man were abducted from the shopping mall and that there had been no breaking of law with regards to unrelated men and women being in a private place together.

It appears as though the Ministry of Justice is using the same press agent as the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. I just can’t believe this.

CNN Subject to Saudi Justice?

I don’t know if it is related or not. Yesterday I posted in Thomo’s Hole about Saudi Justice and the woman who was ordered to receive lashes even though she was raped by seven men. I also noted that CNN had picked up the story. When I got back to my hotel room this evening I noticed that CNN is off the air with a message showing on the TV of:

Service is not running or scrambled

I hope the two events are not related.

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.