© Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters
A Dutch woman who reported being drugged and raped while on vacation in Doha was sentenced to a one-year suspended jail term by a Qatari court for having “illicit sex.” She had been held in custody since March.
On Monday, a Qatari court sentenced a 22-year-old Dutch woman, known as Laura, to a one-year suspended sentence and fined her 3,000 riyals ($824) for having “extramarital sex.” The woman will be deported once she pays the fine, according to the court’s decision.
While on vacation in Qatar in March, Laura went out for drinks at an upmarket nightclub in Doha before being taken to an unknown place where she said she was sexually assaulted.
Laura’s lawyer, Brian Lokollo, said: “She went dancing, but when she returned to the table after the first sip of her drink, she realized that she had been drugged. She really didn’t feel very well.
The young woman remembers nothing more until the following morning, when she woke up in a totally unfamiliar apartment and realized to her great horror that she had been raped.”
Laura managed to flee the apartment and reported the assault to Qatari police, only to be arrested and charged with adultery for having sex out of wedlock.
Her rapist, an identified Syrian national named Omar Abdullah al-Hasan, insisted that the sex was consensual and claimed that the woman had asked him for money.
Al-Hasan was sentenced to 100 lashes for having sex outside marriage and 40 additional lashes for consuming alcohol, which is also prohibited under Qatar’s strict laws. The defendant will not serve a prison term, but could also face deportation.
A Qatari official claimed that the Dutch woman’s one-year suspended sentence was “lenient.”
“Had she been a Muslim woman, she would have received at least five years in jail. No one can get out of such charges here in Qatar,” he said, as quoted by Al Jazeera.
Laura’s mother told Dutch NOS television that she has not spoken to her daughter, but feels “so happy” to learn of her release. “I do not know yet when she gets home, but this is not most important,” she said, adding that “the most important is that she gets home... I am so happy.”
Laura’s case comes as Qatar, a tiny oil-rich country, is preparing for the FIFA World Cup in 2020. There are serious doubts about the country’s readiness to offer appropriate treatment to visitors from across the world, who may be unfamiliar with strict Muslim laws, however.
Rights groups also say that foreign nationals working at World Cup construction sites face sub-standard conditions and are subjected to slave labor. In March, Amnesty International accused Qatari authorities of forcing migrant workers to live in poor conditions, while withholding their salaries and passports.
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