THE PROGRESSIVE CONSERVATIVE, USA

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Volume X, Issue # 121, May 12, 2008
Dr. Almon Leroy Way, Jr., Editor
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DISSIDENT WATCH:  ABDUL RAHMAN AL-LAHIM
By Nathaniel Rosenblatt

THE EFFORTS OF ABDUL RAHMAN AL-LAHIM TO REFORM SAUDI LAW & THE SAUDI JUDICIAL SYSTEM:  HIS BATTLE WITH THE ISLAMIST FORCES THAT CONTROL SAUDI ARABIA'S JUDICIARY -- THE LONG ROAD TO A CONSTITUTIONAL JUDICIAL SYSTEM IN SAUDI ARABIA -- LAHIM'S UNCERTAIN FUTURE AS A SAUDI LAWYER
FULL STORY:   A Saudi court's sentence of 200 lashes and six-months' imprisonment for a 19-year-old victim of gang rape, known only as the "Qatif girl," recently made headlines across the United States. Her story would never have come to outside attention without the efforts of her lawyer, Abdul Rahman al-Lahim. A specialist in commercial law, the 36-year-old Saudi also takes human rights cases on a pro-bono basis. [1]

In his youth, Lahim was attracted to militant Islam and used his Bachelor's degree in Islamic law to teach Arabic and work for As-Sahwa al-Islamiyya (The Islamic Awakening), [2] a militant Islamic group critical of modernizing reforms in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. [3] It was not until he entered law school, Lahim says, that he shed the Islamist ideology. In an interview with The Washington Post, he said that, today, he believes, "first and foremost, in human rights and the rule of law." [4]

It is Lahim's past that makes his arguments for reforming Saudi law effective. He not only crafts effective legal arguments, but he also understands the Islamist forces that hold the gavel.

As a result, Lahim is a marked man by Saudi Arabia's many reactionary forces. He has been arrested multiple times and is banned from traveling outside the Kingdom. In 2004, he defended a high school chemistry teacher from a sentence of 40 months' imprisonment and 750 public lashes for speaking out against terrorism following a major terrorist attack on Saudi soil in May, 2003. Only King Fahd's pardon, at the behest of his brother Crown Prince (now King) Abdullah, saved Lahim himself from imprisonment. [5]

On December 16, 2007, Saudi Justice Minister Abdullah bin Muhammad ash-Sheikh reported that the rape victim had received a royal pardon, but the Saudi courts may yet disbar Lahim for mounting such a vigorous defense. He currently awaits a hearing on his license to practice law, which has been suspended indefinitely. [6] However, these threats do not deter Lahim's efforts to change the Saudi judicial system. "I would be disgraced if I sit back and don't support these people who need me," he says. [7]

Despite the uncertainty of his future, Lahim remains upbeat about judicial reform in Saudi Arabia and suggests that the Qatif case "signals the death throes of the judiciary's old guard." [8] Saudi Arabia's road to a constitutional judicial system is a long one, but, with Abdul Rahman al-Lahim involved, Riyadh and Washington should pack for a lengthy trip.

NOTES:
[1] CNN.com, Dec. 5, 2007.

[2] The Washington Post, Dec. 23, 2006.

[3] The Economist, Nov. 13, 2007.

[4] The Washington Post, Dec. 23, 2006.

[5] Arab News (Jeddah), Nov. 14, 2005.

[6] The New York Times, Dec. 1, 2007.

[7] CNN.com, Dec. 5, 2007.

[8] Irfan al-Alawi and Stephen Schwartz, "The Crime of Qatif," The Daily Standard (Washington), Nov. 28, 2007.


LINKS TO RELATED TOPICS:
Middle East -- Arabs, Arab States,
& Their Middle Eastern Neighbors

American Foreign Policy -- The Middle East

Islamism & Jihadism -- The Threat of Radical Islam
Page Three    Page Two    Page One

International Politics & World Disorder:
War & Peace in the Real World

   Page Two    Page One

Islamist Terrorist Attacks on the U.S.A.

Osama bin Laden & the Islamist Declaration of War
Against the U.S.A. & Western Civilization

Islamist International Terrorism &
U.S. Intelligence Agencies

U.S. National Security Strategy



Nathaniel Rosenblatt is a Masters student in Middle East Studies at Johns Hopkins' School of Advanced International Studies and a Middle East Quarterly intern.


The foregoing article by Rosenblatt was originally published in the Middle East Quarterly, Spring, 2008, and can be found on the Internet website maintained by the Middle East Forum, a foreign policy think tank which seeks to define and promote American interests in the Middle East, defining U.S. interests to include fighting radical Islam, working for Palestinian Arab acceptance of the State of Israel, improving the management of U.S. efforts to promote constitutional democracy in the Middle East, reducing America's energy dependence on the Middle East, more robustly asserting U.S. interests vis--vis Saudi Arabia, and countering the Iranian threat. (Article URL: http://www.meforum.org/article/1891)


Republished with Permission of the Middle East Forum
Reprinted from the Middle East Forum News
mefnews@meforum.org (MEF NEWS)
May 12, 2008




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