Gulf | Saudi Arabia

Jail for assisting Saudi woman to convert and flee

Defendants charged for endorsing fake travel documents

  • By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief
  • Published: 17:19 July 17, 2013
  • Gulf News

Manama: A long-running court case about a Saudi woman who was helped out of Saudi Arabia after she reportedly converted to Christianity is reaching its end after a court ruled jail terms for the two men who helped her leave the country illegally.

The man who forged the document allowing the woman to travel out of Saudi Arabia was sentenced to three years in prison and a 30,000 riyal (Dh29,369) fine while his accomplice, a passport officer, was handed ten months in jail and a 20,000 riyal fine.

However, the two men rejected the verdicts and decided to challenge them at the court of appeals in Dammam, the major city in the Eastern Province.

The woman, an insurance company employee who was not named, was reportedly assisted last year in leaving Saudi Arabia via the 25-kilometre King Fahd Causeway, the only terrestrial link with neighbouring Bahrain.

The woman, known in the Saudi media as ‘The Khobar Woman’ in reference to the eastern city where she worked, had reportedly earlier been influenced by one of the company directors, a Lebanese, to convert to Christianity and leave the kingdom. She eventually flew to Lebanon and has now reportedly settled in Sweden. Attempts by her family and the Saudi embassy to repatriate her have reportedly failed.

In May, a Saudi court sentenced the Lebanese director to six years in prison and 300 lashes for his alleged role in her conversion.

However, the woman’s father said that he was not satisfied with the verdict and wanted harsher punishment.

“The ruling is not appropriate for what he has done to us,” the father said. “He has deprived us of our daughter and he must assume his responsibilities. We will ask the court to keep him behind bars until our daughter comes home,” he said.

The highly unusual conversion and fleeing case in the Saudi kingdom made headlines last summer after a man filed a formal complaint that his daughter had been unduly influenced to convert and flee the country.

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