Sana’a: A Yemeni court ordered on Tuesday the release of an eloping Saudi woman and her boyfriend despite convicting the woman of illegally entering the country.
The court also gave Huda Abdullah, 22, three months to rectify her legal status in the country. Huda, who fled her family home in Saudi Arabia and headed to Yemen to meet her beloved Arafat, will stay Dar Al Amal women’s accommodation after leaving detention, according to the verdict.
Huda was arrested in Yemen for illegal entry and placed on trial, amid mounting pressure from her family and Saudi authorities for her to return home.
But she stuck her ground, pleading in court to be able to stay and marry Tahar, and applied for asylum through the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
The court considered the duration of her detention as a sufficient sentence for the conviction.
The court acquitted her lover Arafat, 25, of aiding her to illegally enter the country and refused the Saudi embassy’s request to be part of the case.
“Despite my reservations about the court’s conviction, I am generally happy with the verdict,” Abdul Raqeeb Al Qadhi, the woman’s lawyer told Gulf News.
In court on Sunday, she refused to accept a lawyer provided by the Saudi embassy, fearing pressure to return home. She accepted, however, a lawyer appointed by a Yemeni non-government organisation called Hood who had campaigned to reunite the two lovers.
“Since Huda has no place to live, naturally she was referred to Dar Al Amal. She will not be under a house arrest and can go out any time,” the lawyer said.
The lovers’ plight has gripped imaginations in both Yemen and Saudi Arabia, where the young woman’s courage is seen as astonishing
She not only went against the wishes of her family, who said she could not marry Tahar, but also dared to flee the country and follow him to Yemen.
Following his release, the cheerful Arafat told Al Oula daily that his wedding ceremony would take place next week in the province of Taiz.
However, Saudi media cited Huda’s family as saying they have the official marriage contract for Huda’s alleged marriage to her cousin.
In Yemen, lawyers say that Arafat cannot swiftly get married to Huda after her release. She must first tell a judge that she wants to marry Arafat. Al Qadhi said: “After the judge receives evidence of her father’s objection to their marriage, then she can authorise the judge to marry her off to Arafat. This legal process could take some time.”
Tuesday’s hearing had been scheduled for December 1, but it was brought forward following a request by Huda’s lawyer who feared for her safety behind bars.
Lawyers say that the ball is now in the UNCHR’s court and it must speed up the process of granting her asylum papers.
This week, an official at the UNHCR’s office in Sana’a told Gulf News the agency had decided to recognise Huda as a refugee and she would receive the official documents within days.
Huda’s ordeal attracted public attention when she defied her family and crossed over Yemen border to marry her beloved Arafat. Her family previously rejected many bids of marriage from her beloved.
She fled to Yemen when she realised that it was impossible for her to marry Arafat in Saudi Arabia.
Their love story has grabbed the headlines for the last couple of weeks and even was at the centre of talks of Yemenis. The two lovers’ supporters rallied outside the courthouse on Sunday demanding release and marriage of them.