Monday, November 19, 2007

This is justice?

An appeal court in Saudi Arabia has doubled the number of lashes and added a jail sentence as punishment for a woman who was gang-raped.

According to the Arab News newspaper, the 19-year-old woman, who is from Saudi Arabia's Shia minority, was gang-raped 14 times in an attack in an eastern province a year-and-a-half ago.

The young woman, who is married, said she had met with a male acquaintance who had promised to give her back an old photograph of herself. After she met her acquaintance in his car in Qatif, a gang of seven men then attacked and raped both of them.

Seven men from the majority Sunni community were convicted of kidnapping—apparently because prosecutors could not prove rape—and sentenced to prison terms ranging from just under a year to five years. The judges reportedly ignored evidence from a mobile phone video in which the attackers recorded the assault.

But the victim was also punished for violating Saudi Arabia's laws on segregation that forbid unrelated men and women from associating with each other. She was initially sentenced to 90 lashes for being in the car of a strange man. The male victim was also given 90 lashes as punishment.

On appeal, the Arab News reported that the punishment was not reduced but increased to 200 lashes and a six-month prison sentence.

The rapists also had their prison terms doubled. But the sentences are still low considering they could have faced the death penalty.

The Arab News quoted an official as saying the judges had decided to punish the girl for trying to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media.

The victim's lawyer was suspended from the case, has had his licence to work confiscated, and faces a disciplinary session.

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