Fayhan Al Gamdi Image Credit: Supplied

Manama: Saudi Arabia’s justice ministry has denied reports that a father who allegedly raped and tortured his five-year-old daughter Luma to death had been set free after having to pay diya (blood money).

“The media reports published in newspapers and posted on electronic websites and social networks on the court verdict in the Luma case are not true,” Fahad Bin Abdullah Al Bokran, the ministry spokesperson, said.

“The case is still being heard at the court and no sentence has been issued yet. The father is still in prison and we expect a ruling soon after all aspects related to the case are examined,” he said in remarks published by the Saudi media on Thursday.

Saudi media had reported that Fayhan Al Gamdi, an Islamic preacher who makes regular television appearances, had been sentenced to pay blood money without facing jail time beyond that which was spent while he was detained before the trial.

The next court session on the case is scheduled for February 13, he said.

The case of the preacher who raped and killed his daughter by torturing her through beatings and burning had shocked Saudi Arabia and sparked widespread official and popular condemnations.

Luma died in November at the Shumaisy Hospital in the Saudi capital Riyadh six months after she was admitted in May in an unconscious state.

Doctors said that she had suffered internal bleeding from multiple injuries on her body and a skull fracture.

Her divorced mother said that the injuries had been inflicted by Al Gamdi who hit her repeatedly and filed a case against him for killing her daughter expecting that he would be executed or sentenced to a long jail term.

Luma’s mother reportedly denied that her daughter had been raped before her death.

“My daughter was not raped,” the distraught mother said. “All the official evidence both at the hospital where she was treated or by the police indicate that she had not been raped by her father. I am shocked by the assault on my daughter’s honour,” she said, quoted by Saudi media.

Last week’s news that he would be released after spending some weeks in jail by paying blood money to his former wife, Luma’s mother, triggered a negative reaction in the country.

Several legal experts and activists issued statements decrying the alleged verdict and advising the mother to push for her rights and seek a more stringent ruling against the man who killed her daughter.

The justice ministry did not explain why it was slow in responding to the reports when they were first published, but its spokesperson said: “We urge the media to avoid publishing reports on a case that is still being deliberated by the court unless they have permission from the judge as per the law. We also urge the media to ensure their information is accurate and from the right in order to avoid publishing or posting incorrect or misleading allegations,” he said.