BBC: Saudis Back Rape Victim Sentence

Authorities in Saudi Arabia have defended a judicial sentence of 200 lashes for a rape victim.

The justice ministry said in a statement that the sentence was justified because the woman was in a car with an unrelated man.

The case has aroused controversy at home and condemnation abroad.

US presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton said the sentence was an outrage and urged President Bush to put pressure on Saudi King Abdullah.

The 19-year-old, who has not been named, was travelling in a car with a male friend last year, when the car was attacked by a gang of seven men who raped both of them.

"I urge President Bush to call on King Abdullah to cancel the ruling and drop all charges against this woman
Hillary Clinton

She has become known as the "Qatif girl", a reference to the largely Shia town which she comes from.

Four of the men were convicted of kidnapping - but the court also sentenced the woman and her friend to receive 90 lashes each for the crime of "illegal mingling".

Last week the court increased the woman's sentence to 200 lashes and six months in prison.

It also banned her lawyer from the courtroom and took away his licence.

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