Monday, December 17, 2007

US welcomes Saudi rape victim pardon

From AFP

US welcomes Saudi rape victim pardon

3 hours ago

WASHINGTON (AFP) — The United States on Monday welcomed Saudi King Abdullah's pardon of a teenage girl who was ordered jailed and lashed after being gang raped, hoping it would "send a signal" to the Saudi judiciary.

"This is a decision that King Abdullah needed to make on behalf of Saudi Arabia, and we think it was the right one," Dana Perino, chief spokeswoman for US President George W. Bush, told reporters.

At a December 4 press conference, Bush had criticized the sentence and declared that the monarch had heard the US position on the case "loud and clear."

"My first thoughts were these: What happens if this happened to my daughter? How would I react? And I'd have been very emotional, of course. I'd have been angry at those who committed the crime, and I'd be angry at a state that didn't support the victim," Bush said.

After having noted that the United States had been "rather astonished" that the victim was punished, a State Department spokesman also welcomed news of the pardon of the girl, who was sentenced to six months in jail and 200 lashes.

"As we understand it, that means that she does not face any further possibility of punishment or criminal prosecution," department spokesman Tom Casey said.

"We're very pleased by the decision that was taken by the king, and we certainly hope it will send a signal to the Saudi judiciary," he said.

"I think that we would like to not see a repeat of cases like this. If the king's decision has an impact of that kind on the thinking of those in the Saudi judicial system, I think that would be a good thing," Casey said.

He said he was not aware of any specific US contacts with King Abdullah on the move, but added Washington had "made quite clear what our views were on this subject" through its embassy in Saudi Arabia and in its public statements.

He said he did not know how the US embassy in Riyadh corroborated the king's pardon, whether it was through the Saudi foreign ministry or justice ministry.

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