Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Saudi defends verdict against gang-rape victim

by Andrew Hammond from Reuters

"The Ministry of Justice welcomes constructive criticism ... The system allows appeals without resort to the media," said Tuesday's statement issued on the official news agency SPA. It berated media for not specifying that three judges, not one, issued the recent ruling and reiterated that the "charges were proven" against the woman. It also repeated the judges' attack against the victim's lawyer, Abdul-Rahman al-Lahem, saying he had "spoken insolently about the judicial system and challenged laws and regulations". Lahem was not available for comment. New York-based Human Rights Watch has called on King Abdullah, who last month announced plans to overhaul the system, to drop all charges against the woman ... The ruling provoked rare criticism from the United States, which is trying to persuade Saudi Arabia to attend a Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland next week. A US State Department spokesman told reporters on Monday that "most (people) would find this relatively astonishing that something like this happens."

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