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Gulf | Saudi Arabia

Lebanese man gets six years for role in Saudi Arabia conversion case

Court jails Saudi national for two years for helping woman flee country

  • By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief
  • Published: 11:32 May 12, 2013
  • Gulf News

Manama: A court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced a Lebanese man to six years in jail and 300 lashes for his role in encouraging a Saudi woman to flee the country and convert to Christianity.

A Saudi national who reportedly helped the unnamed woman, believed to be in her early 30s, to leave Saudi Arabia clandestinely with forged travel documents was sentenced by the court in the eastern city of Khobar to two years in prison and to 200 lashes.

Humood Bin Farhan Al Khalidi, the lawyer of the woman, known in the local media as the “Khobar Woman” in reference to the Eastern Province city where she worked, said that he was pleased with the verdict.

However, he added that the two defendants, who were present at the court to hear the sentence, said that they would appeal it.

The father and brother of the woman now living in Sweden were at the court for the ruling on Saturday, the lawyer said, quoted by local news site Sabq.

At least another suspect who allegedly accepted a bribe to forge the woman’s travel document is likely to face legal action for breaking the law, Al Khalidi said.

“The competent authorities are still investigating the issue and when the suspect or suspects are referred to justice, the administrative court will look into the case,” he said.

The highly unusual conversion and fleeing case in the Saudi kingdom made headlines last summer after her father filed a formal complaint, claiming that his daughter who worked in an insurance company in Khobar was influenced by her Lebanese director to convert to Christianity and flee her country.

A Saudi national who had business connections with the company reportedly helped her by forging a travel document that allowed her to leave Saudi Arabia. She arrived in Lebanon before transiting through Turkey to go to Sweden.

A first attempt by her father to convince her to return home has apparently failed after her “supporters” warned her that she would be killed for her conversion if she agreed to go back.

Her brother, however, has told Saudi daily Al Youm that she would not have any problems with the family and that they just wanted her to come home.

“We want her to come home and be with her family. We have written a pledge that she would not be harmed,” he was quoted as telling the daily on the phone. “Whoever claims otherwise is wrong. The condition of her mother is deteriorating every day she is away and the only cure is to see her daughter,” he said.

 

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