Saudi court sentences 75-year-old woman to 40 lashes

via http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/rssarticleshow/msid-4248328,prtpage-1.cms published on March 10, 2009

CAIRO: The sentencing of a 75-year-old widow to 40 lashes and four months in prison for mingling with two young men who were reportedly bringing her  bread has sparked new criticism of Saudi Arabia’s ultra-conservative religious police and judiciary.

Khamisa Sawadi, who is Syrian but was married to a Saudi, was convicted and sentenced last week for meeting with men who were not her immediate relatives. The two men, including one who was Sawadi’s late husband’s nephew, were also found guilty and sentenced to prison terms and lashes.

The woman’s lawyer, Abdel Rahman al-Lahem, said that he plans to appeal the verdict, which also demands that Sawadi be deported after serving her prison term. He declined to provide more details and said his client, who is not serving her sentence yet, was not speaking with the media.

Saudi Arabia’s strict interpretation of Islam prohibits men and women who are not immediate relatives from mingling and women from driving.

The playing of music, dancing and many movies also are a concern for hard-liners who believe they violate religious and moral values.

A special police unit called the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice enforces these laws, patrolling public places to make sure women are covered and not wearing make up, sexes don’t mix, shops close five times a day for Muslim prayers and men go to the mosque to worship.

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