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Judicial CP - February 2006

Corpun file 17283

New Zealand Herald, Auckland, 1 February 2006

Jail, flogging for men in Saudi harassment case

RIYADH - A Saudi court has sentenced 10 men convicted of harassing two women in Riyadh to jail and ordered them to be flogged, newspapers reported yesterday.

The case has gripped conservative Saudi Arabia since the men were arrested three months ago because of the use of mobile phones to distribute pictures of the incident on the internet.

One of the men, whose ages range between 17 and 26, was given 10 years in prison and 600 lashes for using his mobile phone to record the incident, the newspapers reported.

The 10-year sentence is seen partly as a victory for powerful clerics who have tried to clamp down on modern technology, in particular mobile phones, in strict adherence to an austere version of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism.

The other men were jailed for charges that included speaking to the women and giving out their phone numbers.

One cleric said that the men's punishment could have been the death penalty.

Though details of the incident are sketchy, photos published in newspapers and the internet showed at least one man laughing as he prodded a figure veiled in black from head to toe, prompting outrage in country.

A lawyer for three of the men said he would appeal the rulings, citing a lack of evidence. "The verdict rested on emotions provoked by public opinion," he was quoted as saying in al-Riyadh newspaper.

Clerics in Saudi Arabia fear liberal influences are loosening a strict social system that maintains strict gender segregation and women to be accompanied in public by a male relative. -- REUTERS

Copyright © 2006, APN Holdings NZ Ltd

Corpun file 17431

Sunday Telegraph, London, 5 February 2006

'Happy slapping' leader gets jail plus 600 lashes

By Andrew Alderson in Doha


For decades its young men have adopted Western trends - from jeans to popular music - but this is one imported craze the strict Muslim rulers of Saudi Arabia could have done without.

"Happy slapping", the practice of attacking an innocent victim and recording the incident on a mobile phone, has spread to the oil-rich Middle East kingdom, forcing its courts to take tough action against offenders.

There was public outrage when images of a group of youths molesting two women dressed in traditional Muslim dress were circulated on the internet.

The gang could be seen laughing as one of the assailants repeatedly prodded one woman "from head to toe". The victim was publicly humiliated rather than severely assaulted.

A police investigation was launched and last week 10 men, aged between 17 and 26, were convicted of assault and other minor offences, including speaking to the women and giving out their telephone numbers. They were given long jail sentences and ordered to be flogged.

One cleric said that the crimes were so serious that the defendants were fortunate to have escaped the death penalty.

The leader of the group was given a 10-year sentence and 600 lashes. The penalties are intended to send a stern warning that "happy slapping" will not be tolerated.


A lawyer for three of the 10 convicted Saudi men said his clients would be appealing on the grounds of lack of evidence in the case. "The verdict rested on emotions provoked by public opinion," he said.

Clerics in Saudi Arabia fear liberal influences are loosening a strict social system that maintains segregation between men and women. Under Saudi rules, women have to be accompanied in public by a male relative.

This is the most high-profile case of "happy slapping" to come before the courts in Saudi Arabia, but it is not the first. Last year two young men were found guilty of orchestrating and filming a Nigerian driver sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl.


Corpun file 17429

Arab News, Riyadh/Jeddah/Dhahran, 8 February 2006

Lack of Clear Guidelines Irks Lawyers, Defendants

By Maha Akeel
Arab News

JEDDAH, 8 February 2006 — Reprimanding sentences, which are usually in the form of jail time or flogging or both, are passed based on the judge's jurisprudence and discretion, and herein lies the problem.

For many lawyers, human rights advocates, religious scholars, the lack of codification and regulations upon which to refer when sentencing people for misdemeanors and disputes, makes the Saudi judicial system arbitrary and discriminatory.

Except for certain crimes such as murder, burglary and adultery, Islam does not specify the punishment to be handed to perpetrators for a whole range of crimes, from domestic violence to commercial fraud and drinking alcohol. However, rulers and scholars throughout Islamic history have guided later judges and provided some reference on cases, but overall the judges rely on their personal opinions and interpretations of each individual case when sentencing, leaving many to wonder about the fairness and bases for these judgments.

Sentences on crimes in Saudi Arabia fall under three categories: Punishment, retribution and reprimand. Punishment sentences, for murder for example, are specified in Islamic law and cannot be appealed once proven. Retribution sentences are meant to satisfy and compensate the victim or their family, referred to as private right, while reprimand is meant to deter and discipline the perpetrator of the offense, referred to as public right. These reprimand sentences are passed by the judge as he finds to be in the public's interest and deserving in accordance with his evaluation of the crime committed. Unfortunately, while some judges are lenient others are very severe. The Shoura Council has previously discussed the issue and recommended establishing a codified system for reprimanding sentences as a reference for judges.

At a press conference recently, Justice Minister Abdullah Al-Asheikh said that his ministry was directed by the king to put a framework for punitive and reprimanding sentences.

Highly publicized cases such as Nour Miyati's, the Indonesian maid who was sentenced to 79 lashes because she changed her testimony against her sponsor accusing him of torture, or that of teacher Muhammad Al-Harbi, sentenced to 750 lashes for disrespecting Islam, have raised questions on the judges' judgments. While Miyati's sentence is being appealed and Al-Harbi received a royal pardon, there are many others who are imprisoned and flogged for similarly unsupported or minor accusations.

“There are no guidelines, each judge gives a sentence based on his efforts and interpretations,” said a lawyer who did not wish to be named. “They are supposed to take such things into consideration as the age, health condition and sex of the accused, but many don't. Sometimes you have the same crime or offense committed by two different people and each received a different sentence without really understanding why. You can always appeal these sentences but sometimes you hit a brick wall. The accused ends up getting lashed up to 3,000 times for a petty crime even if it is not a repeat offense,” said the lawyer.

After visiting some of the jails in Saudi Arabia last year, the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) issued a report of its observations on prison conditions and the prisoners. Among their comments were the harsh and exaggerated jail-time and flogging sentences, especially for women.

Suhaila Hammad, senior member of NSHR, said that a woman can get 2,000 lashes while a man committing a similar crime would receive a much more lenient punishment.

“Those who implement the flogging also don't take into consideration the prisoner's health condition,” said Hammad. She particularly emphasized the need to postpone implementing the lashing sentence on pregnant women until after they deliver.

Another objection she had on lashing sentences is regarding minors. “A minor should not be treated as an adult even if they are accused of committing a punishable crime,” she said.

Copyright: Arab News © 2003 All rights reserved.

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