Blawgletter confesses that we don’t often think of Saudi Arabian judges as exemplars of magisterial integrity. Indeed, until recently, we didn’t know that the penisula nation had a functioning court system.
Whatever impulse we had in the direction of admiring Saudi justice died when we read about a Saudi court’s decision to disbar a lawyer for "perturbing" the judiciary.
We understand that the lawyer popped off in public about specific decisions of particular courts and judges. But his provocation seems to us at least equal to his response.
A young woman, about to marry, got into a car. The vehicle contained men she didn’t know. One of them, a friend, had induced her by saying he’d give her an old picture of herself, a photograph that she wanted her groom to have. The men drove away with her. Four of them took turns raping her.
The Saudi courts responded by convicting the victim of violating sharia law, which bars women from meeting men without their husbands or close relatives, and sentenced her to 90 lashes for offending Islam. The rapists got prison sentences of one to nine years — with no lashes.
The 19-year-old woman’s lawyer objected to what he saw as a grave injustice to her. He said so publicly and, perhaps, intemperately. A Saudi judge reacted by disbarring him for "perturbing" the judiciary. Also by increasing his client’s punishment to 200 lashes.
Wow. We agree that holding a law license obliges lawyers not to cast unnecessary public doubt on the integrity of the adversarial process. But, good heavens, this Saudi lawyer may lose his privilege to practice merely because he perturbed judges with his arguments. And the teenager will receive 110 more lashes.
The lawyer’s offense? Pointing out, powerfully, that the judges ordered a horrible punishment of a rape victim because she didn’t bring her father or brother to watch as she fetched a photograph that she wanted to give to her fiance.
How would you respond to such a case of extreme injustice? Would you risk your law license, your family’s livelihood, and indeed your personal honor simply to condemn an inhumane, repellent, and intolerable ruling?
We’ve always believed that how a person behaves when he has nothing to gain from trying to do the right thing tells a great deal about that person’s integrity. Abdulrahman al-Lahim seems to us to have upheld the highest traditions of our profession. He, like our Pakistani bretheren and sisteren, deserves our vocal support.