Saudi man, woman face flogging for research work


Sun Jul 6, 2008 4:29pm IST


RIYADH (Reuters) – A Saudi appeals court is due this week to review the case of a biochemist and his female student sentenced to jail and flogging after a lower court ruled their research contact was a front for a telephone affair.

The man was sentenced to 8 months in prison and 600 lashes and his student to 4 months in prison and 350 lashes last November for establishing a phone relationship that led her to divorce her husband.

London-based Amnesty International says it will consider the two as prisoners of conscience if the verdicts are carried out.

“The charges … do not correspond to recognizable criminal offences,” the group said in a statement in April.

A spokesman for the government’s Human Rights Commission said he was not immediately able to comment.

Rights groups and some Saudi reformers have criticized what they say is an arbitrary justice system unsuited to the needs of a country of 25 million people.

Judges who are religious scholars apply the rulings of an austere version of sharia, Islamic law, often termed Wahhabism.

The government, a key U.S. ally, says the system ensures justice for Muslims and non-Muslims. It is in the process of overhauling the organization of courts and codifying a formal penal code.

The hospital where the man worked in al-Baha in the southwest of the kingdom put him in charge of the masters research the student was doing at the King Abdul-Aziz University in Jeddah in 2002.

The woman obtained a divorce seven months after she was married in 2004. Her husband then raised the court case, saying the supervisor’s phone calls led to the break-up.

The supervisor, who asked to be identified only as Khalid, 32, told Reuters that over 12 months of trial he and the woman were refused permission to use lawyers or bring witnesses to testify.

The woman was represented in court by her father because Wahhabi rules require a male legal guardian.

(Reporting by Andrew Hammond; Editing by Matthew Jones)


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