The leading human rights organization Amnesty International has called on Saudi Arabia to end the persecution of lawyer Abd al-Rahman al-Lahem who was stripped of his license and put under investigation after telling the world of another abusive sentence of a rape victim by the medieval Sharia courts of Saudi Arabia. In the case, a court sentenced a 19-year-old rape victim to 90 lashes. When her attorney went public with the abusive sentence, her sentence was increased to 200 lashes plus six months in jail and her lawyer was stripped of his license. The victim was found guilty of violating the Sharia rule requiring strict segregation of the sexes.
The Saudi court was irate that it was being criticized internationally and banned al-Lahem from defending the woman, confiscated his license and started disciplinary hearings against him.
The lawyer won the 2008 Human Rights Defenders Award but the government barred him from leaving the country to accept the award.
The rape occurred in 2006 when the women got into a car with a male high school student to retrieve a picture. Two men jumped into the car and drove them to a secluded area. She was raped by seven men. The men also assaulted the male friend. Many have criticized Saudi Arabia for a “rape culture” where such abuses occur with little deterrent. In this case, al-Lathim criticized the light punishment given the rapists and the harsh punishment given his client.
By the way, in an example of the hold of the Saudis on our government, our supposed feminist administration issued this statement through US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said:
I think when you look at the crime and the fact that now the victim is punished, I think that causes a fair degree of surprise and astonishment. It is within the power of the Saudi government to take a look at the verdict and change it.
Wow. Now that is a stinging criticism. Canada went into full diplomatic press denouncing the case. Our government merely observed that the Saudi could reexamine the sentence.
With this response from the U.S. it is not surprising that Saudi Arabia responded by pointing out that the “charges were proven” against the woman for being in a car with a strange male . . . and the gang rape by seven men was not apparently enough for the Sharia court as punishment. The Saudi government also dismissed criticism of its abuse of al-Lahem who it described as speaking “defiantly” about the judicial system and noted that these objections have “shown ignorance.”
Abdul Rahman al-Lahem has reportedly been charged by the Public Prosecutor and will appear before a three member committee set up by the Minister of Justice.