Following the Pardon

The Qatif Girl – and her male friend – have received a pardon from King Abdullah, as I posted yesterday. I have to add that I got the word about two weeks ago from sources close to the matter that the girl would be pardoned, but I decided to withhold that piece of information because I thought the pardon won’t be announced until Eid Al Adha as it is customary for the King to issue a general pardon on similar occasions.

The reactions to the pardon have been mixed. For my part, as the New York Times said, I was relieved that the sentence won’t be carried out, but what I have not said in my earlier post is that I was disturbed by the statements of the minister of justice which came out with the news of the pardon. The minister insisted the pardon was not issued because the sentence was unjust, but simply because it was in the interest of the greater good. These statements made it look as if there was nothing wrong with the brutal sentence and the King decided to pardon the girl because of international pressure. I believe that if the King saw nothing wrong with the trial then he would have let the victim appeal and go with the case to the higher court, and then, after all appeals have been exhausted, he would interfere to spare her the suffering.

However, Abu Joori and others pointed out that this is not the end, because there are other injustices still taking place in the Saudi courts. I agree. The Qatif Girl was lucky to have a supporting husband and a courageous lawyer, something that many others probably don’t have, but the big publicity this case received would contribute to shed more light on the state of the legal system and bootstrap the the reforms announced in October.

This case has caused a tremendous embarrassment to the country, but I don’t think the King pardoned the victims just because he wanted to silence the critics. At the same time that I and others were expressing our relief, the extremists here were lashing out saying the pardon would encourage more people to question the rulings of the courts, a sin in their eyes because they believe judges are holy figures who should not be touched.

Much respect to the brave lawyer Abdul-Rahman Al Lahem for his courage and patience. I still remember when someone called in on a TV show and accused him of taking the case because he was after fame. “I don’t mind becoming famous for doing the right thing,” Al Lahem responded. Much respect to the girl’s husband for standing by his wife like a real man. Thank you to all the people who supported this case on blogs, internet forums and the international media. And finally, a short message to the local media: shame on you for ignoring this case; once again you prove that you are such a waste of time and money.

UPDATE: According to Arab News, the official pardon which was released late Monday night by the king said that the Qatif Girl had been subjected to “a brutal crime”. The pardon continued to say that the pardon was “because the woman and the man who was with her were subject to torture and stubbornness that is considered in itself sufficient in disciplining both of them and to learn from the lesson.” The king also ordered the Ministry of Justice to give the rapists the strictest sentence possible for their crime.

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The Qatif Girl, Again

I honestly did not want to write again about the Qatif Girl case. The last thing this country needs is bad publicity, and as we have seen the so-called Ministry of Justice did not just bring us bad publicity, they also caused a global outrage and tremendous embarrassment to this nation. It wasn’t enough that the ruling was wrong to begin with, they continued to show their incompetency by releasing gibberish statements to justify their ridiculous position.

I think that when MoJ found that their image was badly damaged by this case, they decided that the best way to repair it is by slandering the girl and portray her like a slut who deserved to be raped. How is this supposed to improve their reputation is beyond my comprehension, but let’s wait and see what kind of gems MoJ are still keeping for us.

Two days ago, Shatha Omar on LBC hosted Abdul-Rahman Al Lahim, the girl’s lawyer, to talk about the case. In the opposite direction there was Sheikh Abdul-Mohsen Al Obeikan, an adviser to MoJ and member of the Shoura Council. I was shocked to hear Al Obeikan using certain expressions and words to imply that the girl committed adultery. It was really sickening. Later in the show, there was a call from the girl’s husband who sadly complained that the court did not consider the emotional and psychological state of his wife. “You think I would forgive her if she committed adultery?” he asked. “I’m an Arab man, after all.”

I agree with Al Lahim when he said this ruling sends a strong message to women in Saudi Arabia: don’t seek justice from the legal system, and if you were raped don’t even bother to report it to authorities; you better swallow it and shut up. Moreover, suspending Al Lahim and the statements issued later send a message to the rest of us: don’t even dare to question the judges or criticism the the legal system. But you know what your freakin’ honors? We will not shut up. We will speak up, we will expose your injustice, and we will do our best to ensure that justice and common sense would prevail in the end.

UPDATE: Ibrahim Al Khodhairi, a judge at the appeals court in Riyadh, told Okaz today that the judges in this case should have imposed the death penalty on all the parties involved, including the girl. He also said a lot of nonsense in his interview but I’m not in the mood to deconstruct his statements.