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Rosanna Dana Won’t Get 60 Lashes After All for Sex-Related TV Show

from www.guardian.co.uk – King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has pardoned a woman journalist who was sentenced to 60 lashes for her involvement in a controversial TV show in which a Saudi man boasted publicly about his sex life.

Rosanna al-Yami was sentenced to be flogged on Saturday for her role in the July broadcasting on the Lebanese satellite channel LBC of the taboo-breaking episode of the Bold Red Line programme.

Yami expressed relief today after the royal pardon, thanking the king for his intervention. “I am not a heroine,” she told al-Arabiya TV channel. “I am just an ordinary human being. Society sentenced me to death before the judge even passed sentence.”

Yami, 22, worked as a co-ordinator for the programme but denied involvement in the now notorious “sex-braggart” saga, which attracted international attention. The offending episode sent shock waves across Saudi Arabia, which enforces the ultra-puritanical Wahhabi brand of Islam, where dating is impossible, premarital sex a crime and the sexes are strictly separated in almost all circumstances.

Mazen Abdel-Jawad, a tubby, divorced Saudi father, described his sexual relationships and how he picked up women using Bluetooth mobile phone messaging. He was also shown with sex toys, condoms and lubricants in his red-themed bedroom and filmed cruising the streets of Jeddah looking for women.

“I had nothing to do with Mazen Abdel-Jawad’s show,” Yami told Reuters at the weekend. “The verdict was just because I co-operated with LBC.”

Abdullah ordered that her case and that of another journalist – a pregnant woman also accused of involvement in the programme – be referred to a committee of the ministry of education and culture, which is in charge of the media.

LBC is extremely popular in Saudi Arabia, with many Saudis tuning in to its western-style entertainment programmes and talk shows. The channel, owned by the Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, had to close down its offices in Riyadh and Jeddah because of the row.

Abdel-Jawad was sentenced to five years in jail and 1,000 lashes earlier this month. Three male friends who appeared on the show with him got two-year terms and 300 lashes each.

Saudi judges have wide powers of discretion and can issue sentences according to their own interpretation of Islamic law, which has led to some arbitrary rulings. Abdullah, 85, has begun to reform education and the judiciary in recent years, partly to discourage Islamic militancy, but he still faces stiff resistance from conservative clerics.

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