Maha Akeel & Essam Al-Ghalib, Arab News
Publication Date: 
Wed, 2004-04-21 03:00

JEDDAH, 21 April 2004 — Muhammad Bakar Yunus Al-Fallatta, who almost beat his wife Rania Al-Baz to death two weeks ago, has surrendered to police, according to the prominent TV presenter.

Rania told Arab News that her husband who is facing charges of attempted murder, surrendered to police on Monday night. Al-Fallatta, who was carrying a prayer rug, told police he had acted in a jealous rage, she said.

This could mean the charges would be reduced from attempted murder to wife battery, which carries a lighter sentence.

He will remain in custody until he is seen by a judge in four weeks’ time.

The judge will decide in one sitting what happens to Al-Fallatta and also whether to grant Rania a divorce and, if he does, who gets custody of the children.

“They only questioned him for 15 minutes but did not take my statement. Nobody called me yet,” Rania said.

On April 4, Al-Fallatta attacked his wife by pinning her to the floor and repeatedly smashing her face into the marble tiles and the walls while choking her.

According to Rania, he stopped only to give her time to recite the shahada, “because,” he said, “I am going to kill you.”

When she regained consciousness, she found herself in the back of the couple’s van. Her moans apparently frightened Al-Fallatta, who dumped her at the gate of Jeddah’s Bugshan Hospital.

Doctors said she sustained 13 fractures to her face and stood a 70 percent chance of a full recovery but needed numerous operations.

Rania yesterday said she was afraid for her and her children’s lives. She said there are hospital records that show that he had smashed her in the forehead last year, requiring her to be stitched. Al-Fallatta has also hit his five-year old son in the past. “He hit him so hard that he almost ruptured his ear drum. His face was swollen for a few days,” she told Arab News.

He has also abducted the children and prevented her from seeing them for two months, she said. When she complained to police they told her since the children were with their father there was nothing they could do.

She said there were no security guards outside her house despite the fact that Princess Sara Al-Angari, the wife of Makkah Governor Prince Abdul Majeed, had ordered 24-hour security for her.

Rania said she stayed with Al-Fallatta through all these years because she was afraid she would not be given custody of her children if she obtained a divorce, fearing the Kingdom’s judiciary were not sympathetic to working women, especially those working in television.

The National Human Rights Commission, one of whose members visited Rania in hospital last week, had told her they could do nothing for her until a judge had ruled on the case.

When Rania’s story hit the headlines last week, it shocked Saudis into openly talking about one of the Kingdom’s long-hidden problems: Violence against women.

The case was widely discussed both in the Kingdom and in the international press.

Rania was hailed for letting newspaper photographers snap pictures of her face and for frankly discussing her case.

Rania, well known for her chatty, magazine style show “The Kingdom This Morning,” at the time said she wants to use her experience to publicize the plight of battered women in the Kingdom.

But she told Arab News she was not entirely happy with the turn the debate took. Some commentators had suggested there must be a reason why Al-Fallatta beat her.

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