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Saudi woman sentenced to 300 lashes, jail

Bloomberg News / March 4, 2010

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - A Saudi woman who filed harassment claims in Saudi Arabia without being accompanied by a male relative has been sentenced to 300 lashes and 18 months in jail, Human Rights Watch said.

Sawsan Salim lodged a series of complaints in 2007 at government offices and in court in the northern region of Qasim in which she accused local officials of harassment, the rights group based in New York said. She was sentenced in January on charges of making “spurious complaints’’ against government officials and appearing without a male guardian, the group said in an e-mailed statement received yesterday.

“In Saudi Arabia, being a woman going about her legitimate business without a man’s protection is apparently a crime,’’ Nadya Khalife, women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in the statement. “The government needs to free Sawsan Salim and keep its promise to end this discriminatory system.’’

Saudi Arabia, which maintains a code of Islamic morals, said in June at a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva that it would end the male-guardianship rule, said Human Rights Watch.

The system requires women to get permission from a male relative to go to classes, work, travel, open a bank account, or receive non-emergency medical care.