I JUST found out this afternoon that the Qatif girl was pardoned by King Abdullah, which is of course wonderful news.
As I had written twice before in stories for the New York Times, Qatif girl was sentenced last year to 90 lashes for having been alone with a non-related male in 2006 when she and her ex-boyfriend were kidnapped and brutally raped by seven men. She appealed her sentence, and in November the punishment was more than doubled to 200 lashes and six months in jail.
Click here to read the AP version of the pardon story, and here for Ebithal Mubarak's story in Arab News. I must commend my former Arab News colleague Ebtihal for having pushed this story and kept it alive on the front page of the paper, day in and day out. While the Arabic press by and large steered clear of this story, Arab News did not. The outcome of today's pardon can be credited only to the constant attention that the media like Arab News and other foreign news outlets paid to this story.
It's just sad that in the Saudi Arabia of today, victims of the sometimes unjust justice system have to regularly petition the king for a pardon. It would be much better if the long overdue reform of the judicial system took place and helped professionalize and codify a legal system that is still all too often dependent on the personal whims of a judge.