Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz issued a royal decree annulling the penalty imposed on the Saudi woman in the controversial "Qatif girl" rape case, according to a Saudi daily.
The King issued the decree in his capacity as the guardian of the kingdom who has the right "to revoke sentences that serve public interest," Saudi newspaper Al-Jazeera reported on Monday.
Saudi Minister of Justice Dr. Abdullah bin Mohamed told the daily that the king has the right to modify or cancel “taazeer” sentences -- ones related to crimes for which there is no clear punishment ordained by Allah -- as opposed to “Houdoud” which have set penalties for grave sins like apostasy or adultery.
"King Abdullah always cares about what is best for the people. He closely follows judicial rulings and makes sure penalties will not have negative psychological impacts on convicts. He uses his right as guardian of the nation to alleviate people's suffering, while ensuring justice is secured," Mohamed said.
The Minister further stressed the transparency and independence of the judicial system in the kingdom.
"Judges are keen on protecting the people in accordance with Islamic laws. And what happened is the best proof of the efficiency of Islamic courts: the judges pass the ruling they see as fair, and the convicted has the right to contest it via legitimate channels," he added.
The rape victim was accused of being alone with a man not related to her when seven men kidnapped and gang-raped her.
Her lawyer contested the Qatif court ruling that sentenced her to 90 floggings for "illicit privacy." The court later increased the sentence to six months in jail and 200 floggings, sparking local and international condemnation.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid).