RIYADH, Saudi Arabia: A Saudi court sentenced a 19-year-old woman victim of gang rape to six months in jail and 200 lashes — more than double than in her initial sentence for being in the car of a man who was not her relative, a newspaper reported Thursday.
The decision Wednesday was a shocking move by the General Court in the Saudi city of Qatif, in a case that had sparked debate about the kingdom’s justice system when it surfaced over a year ago.
The court also doubled the original prison sentences for the seven men convicted of raping the woman 14 times, the Arab News reported on its English-language Web site.
According to Arab News, the court informed the rape victim that her sentence was made harsher because of “her attempt to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media.”
Three judges from the Qatif court had initially sentenced the woman to 90 lashes, convicting her of violating Saudi’s rigid laws on segregation of the sexes.
Women are not allowed in public in the company of men other than their male relatives. Also, women in Saudi Arabia are often sentenced to flogging for adultery and other crimes.
The initial sentences for the men convicted of the gang rape ranged from 10 months to five years in prison. Their new sentences range from two to nine years in jail, the paper said.
At the time of the attack, the woman was identified in the media only as the Girl from Qatif, coming from the country’s Shiite minority.
The court also banned the woman’s lawyer from defending her, confiscated his license to practice law and summoned him to a disciplinary hearing later this month.
“I explained to them that it was my job to do everything legal in order to serve my client. But they did not listen,” the lawyer, Abdul Rahman al-Lahem, was quoted by the paper as saying.
The case was referred back to the General Court by an appeals court last summer, after al-Lahem contested the initial verdict, saying it was too lenient for the rapists and unjust for the victim.
The attack took place in 2006 near the eastern city of Qatif.
The judges, appointed by the king, have a wide discretion in handing down sentences, often said to depend on their whim. A rapist, for instance, could receive anywhere from a light or no sentence, to death.