Monday, December 17, 2007

King Pardons Saudi Victim of Gang Rape

We now have a minimaly acceptable end to what has been a Sharia human rights nightmare. The matter arose in Saudi Arabia out of the brutal gang-rape of the 19 year old "Girl from Qatif" and her subsuquent sentencing to 200 lashes and six months in prison.

The Washington Post is reporting:

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has pardoned a female rape victim who had been sentenced to six months in prison and 200 lashes, a Saudi newspaper reported Monday.

Saudi Justice Minister Abdullah bin Muhammed al-Sheik told al-Jazirah newspaper that the pardon does not mean the king doubted the country's judges, but instead acted in the "interests of the people.

"The king always looks into alleviating the suffering of the citizens when he becomes sure that these verdicts will leave psychological effects on the convicted people, though he is convinced and sure that the verdicts were fair," al-Jazirah quoted al-Sheik as saying.

The facts of this case have been well documented to show the incredible brutality and misogyny of Saudi Arabia's Sharia law. Those facts are documented here, here and here. Prior to this pardon, it appeared that the Saudi Justice Ministry was attempting a very ham handed and transparent cover-up. Indeed, as you can tell from the Justice Ministry quotes above, it would seem they are still trying to spin the unspinable.

While King Abdullah has done justice in this case, the reality remains that there has been no systemic change to the medieval Saudi system of justice and punishment that was able to produce this travesty. What has happened is the tremendous international criticism - and internal criticism - over this case likely motivated the pardon.

In all fairness to King Adbullah, who is what amounts to a "reformer" in Saudi Arabia, he has tried unsuccessfully to reform his country's justice system. The attorney for the Girl from Qatif, Abdul-Rahman al-Lahem, was hopeful that this case might indeed provide the impetus for reform. Let us hope he is right, or there will be other such "girls" who may find themselves being judicially flogged for little more than being the victims of rape.

And that said, al Lahem was himself threatened with suspension of his law license by the Ministry of Justice over his defense of this case. What happens to him might be a better indicator of the likelihood of reform than the much needed pardon for the gang rape victim in this case.

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