UPDATE: Saudi Arabia: Justice officials state gang-rape victim has admitted to adultery

"Saudi justice officials say a woman who was sentenced to prison and flogging after she was gang-raped has now 'confessed' to an extramarital affair."
The case of the unidentified woman, 19, drew international criticism after an appeal increased her 90-lash sentence to 200 lashes and six months' jail.
The justice ministry statement rejected "foreign interference" in the case.

It insisted the ruling was legal and that the woman had "confessed to doing what God has forbidden".

The statement carried by the official press agency late on Saturday said the sentence would be carried out in accordance with Saudi law.

The woman was initially to be punished for violating strict gender segregation laws in Saudi Arabia, for riding in the car of a man who was not related to her when they were both attacked.

"The Saudi justice minister expressed his regret about the media reports over the role of the woman in this case which put out false information and wrongly defend her," the statement said.

"The charged girl is a married woman who confessed to having an affair with the man she was caught with."

Adultery is a punishable offence in Saudi Arabia's strict system of Islamic law, and correspondents say judges are given wide powers to impose custodial sentences or corporal punishment.

The justice ministry statement is at odds with previous published testimony of the woman, who is a Shia Muslim from the Qatif area.

She has reportedly said she met the car-owner in order to retrieve a photo of them together, having herself recently got married.

She says two men entered the car and drove them to a secluded area where others were waiting, and both she and her male companion were raped.

Her sentence was increased on appeal after judges wanted to punish her for attempting to use the media to influence the case. Her attackers' sentences - originally up to five years - were also doubled.

The woman's companion was sentenced to 90 lashes.

Several governments and human rights groups have condemned her sentence and urged it to be lifted. Canada described it as "barbaric".

The US, a major Saudi ally, declined to comment specifically on the sentence, but did call the case "astonishing".

26 November 2007

Source: BBC