Clinton condemns Saudi rape sentence, White House response

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WASHINGTON: Hillary Clinton Wednesday condemned the sentencing of a Saudi rape victim to 200 lashes and six months in jail as an “outrage and rebuked the White House for its response to the incident.

Clinton recalled how she had spoken out on human rights violations at a global conference on women in Beijing in 1995.

“The latest example is the punishment of 200 lashes that a Saudi Arabian court has given to a victim – the victim – of a gang rape.

“This is an outrage, Clinton said in a statement.

The Democratic front-runner accused the Bush administration of refusing to call for a reversal of the sentence, on the grounds that it was an internal Saudi decision.

“I urge President Bush to call on King Abdullah to cancel the ruling and drop all charges against this woman. As president I will once again make human rights an American priority around the world, Clinton said.

On Tuesday, the State Department voiced “astonishment at the sentence, but stopped short of calling for it to be changed.

Asked if the US government was reluctant to condemn an important Arab ally ahead of a conference aimed at reviving Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said: “No, that s not it at all.

“These kinds of decisions are going to have to be decisions that the people of that country – in this case, Saudi Arabia – are going to have to take for themselves, he said. The woman was initially ordered to undergo 90 lashes for “being in the car of an unrelated male at the time of the rape, the Arab News reported.

The tougher sentence was handed down after an appeal.

The woman s assailants, six Saudi men, were initially sentenced to between one and five years in jail for the rape. Their sentences were stiffened to between two and nine years in prison, but they escaped the death penalty.

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