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Judicial CP - November 2004

Corpun file 14688


Arab News, Riyadh/Jeddah/Dhahran, 1 November 2004

Chief Justice Should Intervene

By Qenan Al-Ghamdi

This article shouldn't be interpreted to mean that I object to questioning the integrity of our legal system or the verdicts handed down by our courts. I wish our judges all the best and pray to Almighty God to reward them for what they are doing in applying Shariah rules as prescribed in the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah, the teachings of the Prophet (peace be upon him). They also apply "qiyas" which is diligence and interpretative judgment and "ijtihad" which is legal reasoning, deduction and inference from analogy. All of these give legal weight and justification to the sentences they impose.

Despite what I have said, I sometimes find it difficult to understand and justify some of our courts’ sentences. For example, two recent news stories will serve to illustrate my point. In the first case, a court in Makkah sentenced a youth to 2,000 lashes for theft; the lashes are to be given at intervals. In the second case, a court in Madinah sentenced an employee of the Ministry of Health to six years in prison and 3,000 lashes because of the "strong suspicion" that he had committed adultery.

The first defendant admitted to stealing jewelry from a shop but objected to the sentence and appealed to the Court of Cassation which upheld the original sentence. Since he had not been sentenced to prison, he had to come to the court, be given a certain number of lashes and then go home and return at a later time.

The Ministry of Health employee, on the other hand, was fired after being sentenced because of the court's "strong suspicion" that he had committed adultery.

I must admit that, like the overwhelming majority of people in this country, I don't know the justification behind many of the sentences passed by our courts simply because they are never made public. We Saudis are taught in school that a sentence issued by a judge using his own discretion should not exceed the limits of hudood which is the punishment prescribed by Shariah.

I am confident that our judges have sound reasons when they impose a sentence but we read of sentences involving thousands of lashes and long prison terms without knowing anything of the circumstances which led to the sentence.

I would like to request Sheikh Saleh Al-Luhaidan, chairman of the Supreme Judiciary Council, to intervene and investigate the matter. Two important steps should be taken here: First making known the justification behind the sentence and second, asking the judges to coordinate with the media so that no news pertaining to sentences is published without being accompanied by the reasons. Many of these reasons must be lying among court records but have never been made public. It is time the public understood the reasons and justifications for the sentences.

Copyright: Arab News 2003 All rights reserved.

Corpun file 14456

Daily Times, Lahore, Pakistan, 5 November 2004

Police 'lash' teacher who hit girl with shoe

Police in Saudi Arabia administered 10 lashes to a Filipina teacher in front of her students for striking a schoolgirl, a newspaper says.

The Saudi Gazette said Lucia Evangelista was punished for hitting 14-year-old Zena Maria Thirwall with a high-heeled shoe during an argument with the girl's British father at the International Philippine School in the Gulf city of Al-Khobar last December. The father filed a police complaint and insisted the punishment be carried out in public, the paper said. It said Evangelista, shackled hand and foot and covered head to toe in an abaya, or long black cloak, knelt down to receive the beating. She had already served a five-day prison sentence. A picture of the incident showed a policeman wielding a cane over a kneeling black figure. The policeman's arm was not raised and the newspaper said the lashes were light and symbolic. -- Reuters

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