UPDATE: Saudi Arabia: Sentence on 75-year-old woman not yet carried out

The Hail Emirate has received official orders to implement the recent sentence handed down against the defendants in the case of Khamisa Sawadi, issued by members of the Committee to Promote Virtue and Prevent Vice in the City of Shamli (170 kilometers south of Hail), which was known in the media as 'The case of the elderly woman of Shamli'. Saudi sources have confirmed to Emirati newspaper, Gulf News, that the woman is still in her house and the sentence has not been carried out yet.

The Director of Public Relations in Hail Emirate, Khaled Alojaan, declared in an official statement obtained by the Agency of Saudi Society that "the competent authority had previously received reports of a woman visited frequently by non-mahram men with whom she went out to unknown destinations."

Khaled Alojaan pointed out that "the regulations necessitated by the competent authorities to accept those reports of incidents according to article no. 27 of the Criminal Procedure Code; during the periodic field work on 14/4/1424 the competent authority received a communication informing it that the two men had entered the woman's house. Moving to the incident site, two men were seen emerging from her home. They were stopped and were then handed to the interrogation authorities. The two men produced a complaint and a committee was constituted of four government bodies to investigate the incident. The Committee concluded that the procedures were correct and charged the two men and the woman with "khilwa", and referred them to the competent court which convicted them of this practice and ordered their punishment."

Possible options
Meanwhile, Saudi sources noted that there are other possible options that might be considered other than implementing the sentence. They include pardoning her or stopping the implementation of the sentence after receiving a medical report stating that the elderly woman's health does not allow the execution. The sentence could also be carried out without inflicting pain, considering her age.

The flogging and imprisonment sentences against Mrs Khamisa Sawadi and two Saudi men were upheld by the country's appeal court. Many Saudi newspapers last month published a statement in which the Saudi interior minister ordered the implementation of the sentence against the three. According to the statement, the woman has faced two similar sentences in the past that were also upheld by the appeal court. On 14 December, Amnesty International issued a statement urging the Saudi authorities not to carry out the sentence.

The woman, identified as Syrian national Khamisa Mohammad Sawadi, along with two Saudi Arabian men known only as Fahd and Hadyan were found guilty in March 2009 of being in the company of members of the opposite sex who are not close relatives (known as khilwa).

At their first trial, Fahd and Hadyan stated in their defence that they were delivering bread to Khamisa. Fahd argued that the offence of khilwa did not apply since he was related to Khamisa, who had breastfed him when he was a child. The court, however, rejected this argument.

One of the reasons for the rejection was that her youngest son is 10 years older than Fahd, a source said. Khamisa and Fahd were sentenced to 40 lashes and four months' imprisonment each, and Hadyan to 60 lashes and six months' imprisonment.

The woman was also sentenced to be deported to her native Syria on completion of her prison term.

WLUML Networkers/Gulf News/Amnesty International
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