Sunday, November 25, 2007

Shari'a Sunday, part 1: Update on Saudi rape case

From AFP:
A woman in Saudi Arabia sentenced to six months in jail and 200 lashes despite being gang raped has confessed to adultery, the justice ministry said on Saturday as it tried to fend off mounting criticism.

Despite being sexually assaulted by seven men who kidnapped her with a male companion at knife-point, the unidentified 19 year-old woman was sentenced in November 2006 to 90 lashes.

The judge sentenced her for being in a car with a man who was not her relative, a taboo in the conservative Muslim kingdom which imposes strict segregation of the sexes.

But her story hit international headlines last week when her sentence was increased to six months in jail and 200 lashes after she spoke to the media.

The justice ministry said in a statement carried by the official SPA news agency that the woman had owned up to having an extramarital affair with the man in the car.

"She admitted to ... exchanging sinful relations," the statement said, adding the woman was in state of undress with the man in the car before the attack took place.

The woman and her alleged lover remained quiet about the attack, which was only reported to the authorities several months later when the woman's husband received an e-mail from an unidentified source informing him of the affair.

"She admitted to what happened and the husband then reported the incident three months after it happened," the justice ministry said, adding it wanted to correct the "largely incorrect" details published in the media about the case.

The ministry also stressed the Saudi judicial system was based on Islamic law derived from the holy Koran and that a court ruling in the kingdom was only made after both sides in a case are given a fair and balanced hearing.

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

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

The justice ministry noted that the law gives the right of appeal, but warned that "resorting to the media" could have "a negative effect on the other parties in the case."
AFP seems to have some details wrong. From Arab News:
“She went out with him without a mahram, a legal guardian, and exchanged forbidden affairs through the illegal khalwa,” the statement said. “They both confessed to doing what God forbids.”

The statement went on to accuse the woman and the man of causing the crime.

They are the main cause of what happened, the woman and her companion, as they exposed themselves to this horrible crime and violated the rule of Shariah,” the statement said. “That’s why the sentences were increased for everyone due to the dangerous nature of the crime.”

The ministry also claimed that the woman violated the sanctity of marriage.

“She knows that ‘khalwa’ with an unrelated man is forbidden by Shariah and by doing this she has broken the sacred matrimonial contract,” the statement said.

“The woman mentioned in her signed confession that she called from her husband’s house using her cell phone asking for a forbidden ‘khalwa’ in front of a shopping center,” the statement said.
So what is "khalwa" and was this woman really married?
The matrimonial contract that the ministry refers to is known as “qiran”. In Saudi Arabia the “qiran” is viewed as a contract of betrothal, similar to marriage except that the woman and man must live with their families until they come out to society with an official wedding ceremony.

Arab News learned yesterday that the rape victim and her betrothed had signed a “qiran” contract; they have never lived together as husband and wife.

The sentence of the two rape victims is based on the Saudi interpretation of “khalwa”, the principle that an unrelated man and woman cannot be in seclusion together. The interpretation of “khalwa” under Saudi law — which judges say is the proper interpretation of the Sunnah — includes unrelated men and women being together even in public. The judicial interpretation of “khalwa” in Saudi Arabia also includes an unrelated man and woman inside a vehicle.

The ministry claimed the woman was “in a state of indecency, having thrown off her clothes” and the two were abducted in a “dark side of the (Qatif) corniche” by the attackers after they saw the couple in this alleged state of indecency.

The woman’s lawyer, Abdul Rahman Al-Lahem, had said in a previous interview with Arab News that the police investigation records states that the two victims were abducted in a public place, in front of a shopping mall.

The statement claimed that the two victims of the gang rape hid the incident for three months until an e-mail was sent to the woman’s betrothed “informing him what happened to his wife, and her betrayal.”

A source close to the case that wishes to remain anonymous told Arab News that no e-mail was sent and that the woman’s betrothed didn’t find out about the crime until he was told by his friends that the rapists were bragging about the crime in the small community of Qatif.
This is a great introduction to how Shari'a law works as a basis for a modern legal system. Two victims of a crime are not valid witnesses against the rapists because one of them is a woman; appealing a sentence while talking to the media will make your sentence more severe; and the police and judicial system can lie to cover up their own embarrassment.

And Saudi Arabia's isn't the only shari'a-based legal system:
Kuwait, as a state and people, views the Holy Book the Koran as the reference of guidelines for managing and maintaining the homeland, a senior official affirms.

Undersecretary of Awqaf Adel Al-Falah underscored the fact that the commitment to the holy book helps in maintaining social security and stability for the homeland and the whole Islamic nation, noting the Koranic guidelines for moderation and positive manners.