Saudi lawyer fights back against Saudi "justice"

Washington Post:

A human rights lawyer who has defended a gang-rape victim sentenced to jail time and lashes said Wednesday that he is suing the Justice Ministry for revoking his license and for defaming his client by accusing her of having an affair.

Abdul-Rahman al-Lahem's license was suspended this month in the eastern town of Qatif, where his client was sentenced to six months in jail and 200 lashes on a morals charge after she and a male companion were kidnapped by seven men and raped.

The Justice Ministry said in a statement last week that the 20-year-old married woman had "confessed to having an affair with the man she was caught with." The statement also said she was not fully clothed when she and her male companion were seized at knifepoint.

"The Justice Ministry's accusing my client of adultery, without proof, is illegal. It is a crime, and they, better than anyone else, should know that," Lahem said. "I am suing them to protect my client's honor and because no one, including the Justice Ministry, should be above the law."

The Saudi National Human Rights Association, a government-financed group, has requested an explanation for the revocation of Lahem's license by the Qatif court.

"We are questioning the legality of them taking his permit," said Saleh al-Khathlan, a member of the group. "We are hoping that this is not a reaction to his being so active in the field of human rights and his criticisms of the system, and that they're not trying to punish him for being so outspoken."

...

The judiciary has accused Lahem, 36, of ignorance of the law, disrespecting the courts and seeking undue media attention.

On a satellite television program Tuesday, Abdul-Mohsen al-Obaikan, a Justice Ministry consultant and former judge, said the woman was to blame for the sentences, which he described as lenient. "Nobody accepts that his wife cheats on him, and that she betrays her marital vows and sullies her marital bed," he said.

...

Midway through the show, the woman's husband called in, saying his wife was guilty only of trying to get her photos back. "I have forgiven her for that. I know why she was there. Why can't you forgive?" he asked.

...

The case has put a spotlight on the Saudi judicial system, which is run in accordance with the country's official Wahhabi school of thought, a strict form of Islam. The kingdom follows Islamic law, or sharia, and many sentences are left to the discretion of judges, a practice recently criticized by a growing number of Saudis.

...

The Saudi judicial system is making a mockery of the term justice. It is also demonstrating the depravity of Shari'a law. At a time when Saudi Arabia is recognizing violence against women, it is perpetrating it with this heinous verdict against a victim. The official on al Jazeera demonstrates the blame the victim mentality of the Saudi culture.

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