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Dutch woman jailed in Qatar after reporting rape sentenced, then freed

A Dutch woman detained for three months in Doha, Qatar after reporting her rape has been handed a suspended prison sentence and released from detainment. 

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    A Qatari woman walks in front of the city skyline in Doha, Qatar in 2010. A Dutch woman held in Qatar for nearly three months after telling police she had been raped was released Monday after receiving a 1-year suspended prison sentence, a Dutch diplomat said Monday.
    Kamran Jebreili/AP/File
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A Dutch woman who was detained in Qatar for nearly three months after reporting that she had been raped has been released after receiving a one-year suspended prison sentence.

The 22-year-old woman, who remains anonymous, will be deported to the Netherlands in the coming days once the ruling made Monday is finalized, according to the Dutch ambassador to Qatar.

The woman reported her rape to the authorities in mid-March and was subsequently arrested on adultery charges for "illicit consensual fornication." She says that she was drugged at a hotel bar in the Qatari capital of Doha while on vacation with a friend, and woke up the next morning in an unfamiliar apartment with her clothes torn.

After telling her story to the police, she was immediately detained, her lawyer, Brian Lokollo, told the Associated Press. At a court hearing on Monday – the third hearing in the case – she was given a one-year suspended prison sentence and placed on probation for three years. In addition, she was fined 3,000 Qatari riyals (about $823) for being drunk outside a licensed location. 

The Syrian man she accused of raping her, Omar Abdullah Al-Hasan, claimed that the sex was consensual. He pleaded guilty to charges of illicit consensual sex and being drunk in public, and was sentenced to 140 lashes, according to Al Jazeera.

According to Qatar's Penal Code 2004 (Law No. 11), "anyone who copulates with a female above sixteen without compulsion, duress or ruse is convicted to no more than seven years in prison. The same penalty is also imposed on the female for her consent."

The Dutch woman’s one-year suspended sentence was "lenient," said one anonymous court official in an interview with Al Jazeera. 

"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. 

Qatar is governed by Islamic-based legal codes, and forbids sex out of wedlock. It is also a criminal offense to drink alcohol or be drunk in public, although alcohol is available at high-end hotels and duty-free airport shops. Residents must have permission from their employers to make a purchase at the country’s only government-run liquor store, and non-Muslims can obtain a permit to buy alcohol. 

The high-profile case raises concerns about the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup, which is set to take place in Doha and is sure to attract thousands of Western tourists unfamiliar with Qatar’s policies. 

This is not the first time a Western woman has been punished for reporting a rape in the Gulf Arab states. 

In 2008, an Australian woman said she was jailed for eight months after reporting a gang-rape in the United Arab Emirates. More recently, in 2013, Marte Deborah Dalelv of Norway was sentenced to 16 months in prison after reporting that a colleague raped her while on a business trip to Dubai. Ms. Dalelv was pardoned one week after her sentence due to international outrage and diplomatic pressure. 

According to media reports compiled by the Human Rights Watch, dozens of people accused of "zina" (sex outside of marriage) in Qatar have been given flogging sentences since 2004, including at least 45 people between 2009 and 2011. 

This report contains material from Reuters and the Associated Press. 

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