Thursday, November 15, 2007

Saudi gang-rape victim is jailed

By Frances Harrison
BBC News

women crossing
Saudi women are subject to strict sex segregation laws
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.

The victim was initially punished for violating laws on segregation of the sexes - she was in an unrelated man's car at the time of the attack.

When she appealed, the judges said she had been attempting to use the media to influence them.

The attackers' sentences - originally of up to five years - were doubled.

Extra penalties

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 the eastern province a year-and-a-half ago.

Seven men from the majority Sunni community were found guilty of the rape and sentenced to prison terms ranging from just under a year to five years.

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.

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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