RIYADH, Dec 17, 2007 (AFP) – Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has pardoned a teenage girl sentenced to six months in jail and 200 lashes after being gang raped, Al Jazirah newspaper reported on Monday. The ruling against the 19-year-old girl in the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom had attracted widespread international condemnation, including from human rights groups and the White House.
The Arabic language daily said it had been informed of the royal pardon from its own unidentified sources.
But in the same article, the kingdom’s Justice Minister Abdullah bin Mohammad bin Ibrahim al-Sheikh told the paper the king had the “right to overrule court judgements if he considered it benefiting the greater good.”
The girl, who was 18 at the time she was raped, 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.
Her identity has not been revealed but she has become known as “Qatif girl,” after the Shiite-populated area of Al-Qatif in the Eastern Province from which she comes.
In October 2006, a judge sentenced her to 90 lashes for being with the man — a taboo in the conservative Muslim kingd