Last year, this space related the story of a gang rape victim in Saudi Arabia who was sentenced to 90 lashes of the whip because she was alone in a car with a man to whom she was not married.
At the time, this writer was stunned, but not surprised, that the Saudis would pull something like this, since their laws have remained the same since the mid-seventh century.
When this writer originally told this tale, I wrote: "The crime has shocked public opinion in Saudi Arabia and the victim's husband and family said that they would appeal to the court for harsher penalties. However, the article did not specify whether if they want harsher treatment for the rapists or the poor victim."
Well guess what happened last week: The poor victim had her sentence increased to 200 lashes and six months in prison.
The woman's attorney had appealed the verdict and because his client spoke to the media, the judges jacked up the punishment. Not only that, but for his troubles, the lawyer has been stripped of his law license and the Saudi "ministry of justice" also summoned him to appear before a disciplinary committee.
And what does our State Department say about this? According to a CNN interview, spokesman Sean McCormack would only say the situation was "astonishing." When asked by the reporter, "Just to be clear, you're in no way condemning the sentence at all," McCormack stated "I've said what I'm going to say about it."
The cricket chirps from American feminist groups such as NOW are also deafening.
Of course, this was a perfect opportunity for presidential candidates to score political points. Hillary Clinton demanded President Bush call on Saudi King Abdullah to cancel the ruling and drop all charges against the woman.
If this were not an election year, I doubt she would have said anything about this case unless there was a chance to bash Bush. I'm also wracking my brain trying to remember exactly what her husband did about sexual assault issues during his administration.
But perhaps the reason for this silence is not a quiet affirmation of the verdict, or worries about the oil getting cut off or angering an "ally," but rather fear. This isn't the only case of Saudis using the legal system to obtain twisted verdicts. Some are even branching out and using British courts to shut down American critics.
Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld is the author of the book "Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed -- and How to Stop It." In the book, she claims that one of the world's richest men, Saudi billionaire Khalid Bin Mafhouz, is a source of financial support for terrorism. Her book is not the first to do so, but Ehrenfeld quickly found out what happens to the billionaire's detractors.
Bin Mafhouz uses the British legal system and sues for libel whenever he is the subject of these accusations to silence his critics. According to the Boston Globe, he has sued or threatened suit in England 33 times against those who have linked him to terrorism. The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post all have settled with him, and his web site even boasts of the fact.
Even though Ehrenfeld published the book in this country, she was sued in England, where she was found guilty in a default judgment. In America, truth is the ultimate defense to allegations of defamation or libel, but that's not the case in Britain, where the burden of proof in a libel suit lies with the defendant, not the plaintiff.
Ehrenfeld was ordered to apologize, pay Bin Mafhouz about $230,000 and destroy all copies of her book. The thing is that nothing in Ehrenfeld's book about Saudi funding of terrorism was ever disproven. It appears all someone needs to silence and ruin an author is the threat of huge legal fees by dragging a case endlessly through the courts.
In a separate case involving Bin Mafhouz, Cambridge University Press not only capitulated to a suit by destroying copies of "Alms for Jihad," another book about the funding of terrorists, but the British publishing house even called on American libraries to withdraw and destroy their own copies of the book. Fortunately, they have refused.
Ehrenfeld has filed a First Amendment lawsuit in the U.S Court of Appeals and a YouTube video called The Libel Tourist is spreading the word about this modern-day book burning mandated by British courts.
But has this attempted censorship of an American writer via foreign courts been blasted by our government? To my knowledge, it has not. There has also been very little coverage of this matter by the media of this country.
One has to wonder why.
Because of this type of repeated behavior, you would think that our elected leaders would be eying the Saudis with suspicion, especially due to a recent report stating that over 40 percent of those who entered Iraq to join the insurgency in the past year were citizens of Saudi Arabia.
This country should seriously reevaluate whether we should continue to rely so much on these so-called allies in favor of those who are less likely to be litigious, misogynist barbarians who stab us in the back every chance they get.