segunda-feira, 17 de dezembro de 2007
Rape victim spared lash
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has pardoned a teenage girl sentenced to six months in jail and 200 lashes after being gang raped, Al Jazirah newspaper reported on Monday.
The ruling against the 19-year-old girl in the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom had attracted widespread international condemnation, including from human rights groups and the White House.
The Arabic language daily said it had been informed of the royal pardon from its own unidentified sources.
But in the same article, the kingdom's Justice Minister Abdullah bin Mohammad bin Ibrahim al-Sheikh told the paper the king had the "right to overrule court judgements if he considered it benefiting the greater good.''
The girl, who was 18 at the time she was raped, was attacked at knifepoint by seven men after she was found in a car with a male companion who was not a relative, in breach of strict Saudi law.
Her identity has not been revealed but she has become known as "Qatif girl,'' after the Shi'ite-populated area of Al-Qatif in the Eastern Province from which she comes.
In October 2006, a judge sentenced her to 90 lashes for being with the man - a taboo in the conservative Muslim kingdom which imposes segregation of the sexes.
She appealed against the sentence but despite her ordeal the court ruled that her punishment should be increased to 200 lashes and a six-month jail term.
The judges decided to punish the woman further for "her attempt to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media,'' a court source told the English-language daily Arab News.
The rapists were initially sentenced to one to five years in jail, but those terms were also toughened in November to between two and nine years.
A rape conviction carries the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, but the court did not impose it due to the "lack of witnesses'' and the "absence of confessions,'' the justice ministry said last month.
The court also revoked the licence of the woman's lawyer, who has also been summoned by the justice ministry to appear before a disciplinary panel.