Rape victim vows to fight punishment

The 19-year-old was raped by a group of seven men in October 2006.

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Her attackers were jailed for between one and seven years each, but she was also prosecuted for having been in a car with a man who was not a relative.

Initially handed 90 lashes as a punishment, she was granted a retrial, where judges upped her sentence because of “her attempt to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media”.

The case has provoked international condemnation, and severely embarrased the Saudi government.

Strict segregation

Saudia Arabia applies a rigorous doctrine of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism, which advocates strict segregation of the sexes and imposes a host of restrictions on women, who are prohibited from mixing with men other than relatives and must cover from head to toe in public.

The woman's lawyer, Abdurrahman al-Lahem, said the case “sums up the major problems that the Saudi judiciary faces”.

In the court's view, the girl, who was 18 at the time of the incident, was guilty because she was in the company of a male stranger who apparently had pictures of her which she wanted to take back.

Both were abducted and sexually assaulted by the gang.

The court's “argument was that it was the girl's fault in the first place that [the rape] happened and none of that would have have happened if she had not met up with the non-related male friend,” Lahem told Arab News.

Death penalty

A rape conviction carries the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, but the court did not impose it due to the “lack of witnesses” and the “absence of confessions,” the justice ministry said on Tuesday.

The young woman belongs to Saudi Arabia's minority Shiite community while the rapists are Sunni.

The men were initially sentenced to one to five years in jail, but those terms were also toughened last week to between two and nine years.

The woman's husband told Arab News they would appeal, even though the judge had warned that the sentence could be increased if she loses the appeal.

The justice ministry noted that the law gives the right of appeal, but warned that “resorting to the media, which do not do justice or grant a right,” has a “negative effect on the other parties in the case.”