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Sun 6 Jul 2008 03:43 PM

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Saudi man, woman face flogging for research

Professor and student face jail, lashing after court rules research was front for affair.

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 eight months in prison and 600 lashes and his student to four 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 recognisable 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 criticised 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 US ally, says the system ensures justice for Muslims and non-Muslims. It is in the process of overhauling the organisation 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 newswire 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. (Reuters)

Joe Simm 11 years ago

It's sad that a divorce is never the husband's fault. Women in Saudi need help.

Waqqas Pervez 11 years ago

This shows ignorance of the writer about Islamic rules who, instead of doing some research before using any terminology, has labelled the condition for a woman to be with a legal guardian as something "wahabi". There's nothing such as "wahabi rule" ... this is a term that the West coined long time back (during British colonialism) to serve their own interests. And, regretfully, it did serve well their interests. Anyone strictly following Islamic rules, according to the Quraan and Sunnah, is now being labelled as "Wahabi" by the West, and in Asian countries like India and Pakistan. The condition for a lady to be accompanied by a legal guardian when she goes out, especially for matters related to court or journey, is something that is required by Islam. I ask to please take care of these sensitive issues.

Mohamed Al Khatab 11 years ago

Anyone who suggests that such ignorance is a reflection of Islamic values is definitely no Moslem, as far as I am concerned. The golden age of Islam was a period when Islam was the most progressive religion in the world. Now people like this want to drag us all back to the dark ages. Shame on the husband. Shame on the court.