The Saudi gang-rape survivor who was sentenced to 200 lashes and six months in jail was pardoned today by King Abdullah. (The 19-year-old victim was charged because she got into a car with a man to whom she was not related — not because she was raped — violating Saudi Arabia's strict laws concerning sexual segregation.) A Justice Minister told the Saudi Arabian newspaper al-Jazirah: ''The king always looks into alleviating the suffering of the citizens when he becomes sure that these verdicts will leave psychological effects on the convicted people, though he is convinced and sure that the verdicts were fair."
The victim, known in Saudi Arabia as the "girl of Qatif", certainly experienced "psychological effects." Her husband described her as a "crushed human being" whose myriad health problems have only been exacerbated by the ordeal. According to the Guardian, "Qatif girl" even tried to commit suicide in the aftermath of the attacks — sometime after her own brother tried to murder her. After the controversial sentence was handed down, the Saudi justice ministry explained that "Qatif girl" provoked the attack because she was "indecently dressed." They also ignored a camera-phone video taken by the assailants of the attack, adds the Guardian.
Conservative Muslim websites are already decrying the pardon, claiming that King Abdullah threw over the tenets of Islam to appease Western critics. Canada came out vocally against Qatif girl's sentence, and although President Bush admitted that he pondered how he would react had Qatif girl been Jenna or Barbara, he never spoke directly to King Abdullah about his concerns.
As for Qatif girl's loyal lawyer, Abdul Rahman al-Lahem, he is still facing a disciplinary hearing for his role in her defense. He is accused of "insulting the Supreme Judicial Council and disobeying the rules and regulations of the judiciary" because al-Lahem brought the case to the media. It's plainly obvious, though, that without international publicity, Qatif girl would have been greeting a New Year filled with corporal punishment.