Saudi Arabia: Raped teenager appeals to king to stop lashing

A teenage Saudi gang-rape victim who was sentenced to 90 lashes for being alone with a man she was not related to has beseeched King Abdullah, the country's monarch, to intervene in the controversial case.
"I ask the king to consider me as one of his own daughters and have mercy on me and set me free from the 90 lashes," the 19-year-old said in an emotional interview with a Saudi newspaper yesterday.
"I was shocked at the verdict. I couldn't believe my ears. Ninety lashes! Ninety lashes!" the woman, identified only as G, told the Saudi Gazette, an English-language daily. Five months after the judgment, her sentence has yet to be carried out and G said she waits in fear every day for the phone call telling her to come in for her punishment. Lashes are usually spread over several days. About 50 lashes are given at a time.

The case is the latest in a series of highly controversial judgments that has highlighted the shortcomings of the Saudi legal system. But it is also regarded as a sign of change that the once tame and timid Saudi media are prepared to cover and challenge cases of rough justice.

G's ordeal began a year ago when she was blackmailed into meeting a man who threatened to tell her family they were having a relationship outside wedlock, which is illegal in the desert kingdom. She met the man at a shopping mall and, after driving off together, the blackmailer's car was stopped by two other cars bearing men wielding knives and meat cleavers. During the next three hours, the woman was raped 14 times by her seven captors. One of the men took pictures of her naked with his mobile phone and threatened to blackmail her with them. Back at home in a town near the eastern city of Qatif, the teenager did not tell her family of her ordeal. Nor did she inform the authorities, fearing the rapist would circulate the pictures of her naked. She also attempted suicide.

Five of the rapists were arrested and given jail terms ranging from ten months to five years. The prosecutor had asked for the death penalty for the men. However, the Saudi justice ministry said rape could not be proved because there were no witnesses and the men had recanted confessions they made during interrogation. The judges also decided to sentence the woman and her original blackmailer to lashes for being alone together in his car.

Fuziyah al-Ouni, a human rights activist, said she was outraged by the case. "By sentencing her to 90 lashes they are sending a message that she is guilty. No rape victim is guilty," she said.

06 March 2007

Scotsman via WUNRN