From ABC, 29 Nov. 07
SAUDI JUDGES INSULTED ME, GANG RAPE VICTIM SAYS
A Saudi gang rape victim who was sentenced to six months in jail and 200 lashes was scolded by judges while police repeatedly dismissed her claims, she said in testimony published today.
The 19-year-old girl described the rape itself - including the fact that one of her attackers photographed her - and her struggle to eat or sleep in its immediate aftermath to the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW).
She was attacked at knifepoint by seven men after she was found in a car with a male companion who was not a relative, in breach of strict Saudi law, and was initially sentenced last year to 90 lashes for being with the man.
Following her appeal, the court ordered her punishment should be increased to the current sentence, a decision which has attracted wide international condemnation from human rights groups to the White House.
According to the testimony published in Britain's The Independent newspaper, once the girl's husband found out about the gang rape, he told the police and appealed for the rapists to be arrested, to which a police officer said: "You go find them and investigate."
The husband telephoned the police on four separate occasions before any action was taken.
Once in the courtroom, the girl, who has not been identified, was questioned repeatedly by the judges about the nature of her relationship with the man she had met with, and why she had left the house.
"They used to yell at me. They were insulting ... One judge told me I was a liar because I didn't remember the dates well," she said.
"They kept saying, 'Why did you leave the house? Why didn't you tell your husband?'"
After the initial sentence of 90 lashes was announced in court, she was told by a judge that she "should thank God that you're not in prison".
Her husband told Human Rights Watch that after the first sentence, "It was like she was the criminal."
"When the judges passed down the sentence, I asked them, 'Don't you have any dignity?'"
The assailants' sentences were also toughened on appeal to between two and nine years.
Their sentences fell short of the death penalty - which could be imposed in a rape conviction - due to the "lack of witnesses" and the "absence of confessions" as required by Islam, the justice ministry said.
Also in the testimony to HRW, the girl said she had met with the man in the car because she "had a relationship with [him] ... on the phone" and was hoping to take back a photograph of her that she had given him.
They were stopped by another car and taken to a secluded area: "They took me to a dark place. Then two men came in. The first man with the knife raped me ... I tried to force them off but I couldn't."
After four of the men raped her, "The fifth took a photo of me like this. I tried to cover my face but they didn't let me."
Two more men then raped her, and after being informed the time was 1:00 am, she was then raped again by all seven men.
The group then took her home: "When I got out of the car, I couldn't even walk. I rang the doorbell and my mother opened the door. She said, 'You look tired'."
"I didn't eat for one week after that. Just water. I didn't tell anyone. I can't sleep without pills. I used to see their faces in my sleep," she said.
Saudi Arabia's justice ministry said on Saturday the woman had admitted having an extramarital affair with the man in the car.
HRW dismissed the ministry's claims, though, with Farida Deif, researcher in HRW's women's rights division, saying: "The Ministry of Justice's response to criticism of its unjust verdict has been appalling".
"First, they attempted to silence this young woman, and now they're trying to demonise her in the eyes of the Saudi public."