JEDDAH, 15 November 2007 — The General Court in Qatif yesterday doubled the number of lashes for a rape victim as well as jail terms for her assaulters. In its verdict, the court also suspended the victim’s lawyer from defending her.
The case was referred back to the General Court by the Appeals Court judges last summer after Abdul Rahman Al-Lahem, the victim’s lawyer, successfully contested against the initial verdict saying it too lenient for the rapists and unjust for the victim.
A year-and-a-half ago in the Eastern Province town of Qatif, a seven men gang-raped a 19-year-old girl 14 times. Three judges from the Qatif General Court sentenced the rape victim to 90 lashes for being in the car of an unrelated male at the time of the rape. The sentences for the seven rapists ranged from 10 months to five years in prison.
The Appeals Court sentenced the victim to 200 lashes and six months in prison. The seven rapists had their sentences increased to between two and nine years. The verdict came in as a shock to everybody.
A source at the Qatif General Court said that the judges had informed the rape victim that the reason behind doubling her punishment was “her attempt to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media.”
Judge Soliman Al-Muhanna from the Qatif court told the lawyer (Al-Lahem) that the judicial committee had decided to suspend him from the case. They also confiscated his license which is granted to Saudi lawyers by the Ministry of Justice.
“I explained to them that it was my job to do everything legal in order to serve my client. But they did not listen,” he said.
To Al-Lahem’s surprise he received a call from the Judicial Investigation Department of the Ministry of Justice to inform him of a disciplinary session he should attend on 25th of the Hijra month.
“Actually this is the second time they have contacted me. They claim that I advertise my services and that that is against Saudi law,” he said.