Sunday, November 18, 2007
Crime & punishment in Saudi Arabia
After the cases of Nigerian women Safiya Husseini and Amina Lawal, both sentenced to death by stoning for violations of Sharia (Islamic religious) law (but later acquitted), comes that of "the Qatif girl”, as she is called. Violating the law against being in seclusion with a man not her husband or a relative, this 19-year-old joined a former boyfriend in his car. Soon to be married, she wanted to recover photos he had of her. The pair were dragged from the car by 7 men who then raped both of them. At trial, the victims each received a sentence of 90 lashes; the rapists were sentenced 80-1,000 lashes each and prison terms of 10 months to 5 years. The “Qatif girl” appealed and the decision has shocked even Saudis, which many feel to be motivated by spite against the girl’s human-rights-activist lawyer, Abdulrahman al-Lahem. The victim’s original sentence was already harsh – the standard Saudi punishment for adultery is only 60-80 lashes. Agreeing that the rapists’ punishments were insufficiently severe, the appellate court upped the prison terms to 2-9 years. But it also increased the girl’s sentence to 200 lashes and 6 months in jail. She has not yet been punished and her husband intends to appeal the judgment.