December 16, 2009

SAUDI ARABIA: Amnesty International urges clemency for elderly woman

. TEHRAN, Iran / PressTV / Midle East / Persian Gulf / December 16, 2009 Amnesty International has called on Saudi Arabian authorities not to carry out a sentence of 40 lashes, imprisonment, and deportation handed down against a 75-year-old woman for being in the company of a young man she once breastfed. “The minister of interior (Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz) is reported to have ordered the immediate detention and flogging of a 75-year-old woman, Khamisa Mohammed Sawadi, along with two Saudi Arabian men known only as Fahad and Hadyan,” the London-based human rights organization said on Tuesday. “The Saudi Arabian authorities must not carry out the imminent flogging and imprisonment of an elderly woman and two younger men.” Khamisa Mohammed Sawadi, Fahad, and Hadyan were arrested on April 21, 2008 by members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (also known as the morality police) on charges of violating a sex-segregation law known locally as khilwa. At their trial, Fahad and Hadyan stated in their defense that they were delivering bread to Khamisa Mohammed Sawadi. Fahad argued that the offence of khilwa did not apply since he was related to Khamisa Mohammed Sawadi, who breastfed him when he was a child. The court, however, rejected the argument. Khamisa Mohammed Sawadi and Fahad were sentenced to 40 lashes and four months' imprisonment, and Hadyan to 60 lashes and six months' imprisonment. Khamisa Mohammed Sawadi was also sentenced to be returned to her native country Syria on completion of her prison term. Photo courtesy: Amnesty International deplored the fact that all avenues of appeal had now been exhausted in Saudi courts against the trio's March conviction for being in the company of members of the opposite sex who are not close relatives. “It is abhorrent that an elderly woman is at risk of 40 lashes,” said the deputy director of AI'S Middle East and North Africa Program, Philip Luther. “We urge the authorities to prevent the imprisonment and flogging of Khamisa, Fahad, and Hadyan.” Saudi Arabian law is based on the ideology of the Wahhabis, a sect whose interpretation of Islam is more rigid and harsh than the interpretations of the mainstream schools of Islamic jurisprudence. [rc] © 2009 Press TV