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Bush: Rape-case opinion 'loud and clear'

  • Story Highlights
  • President says King Abdullah "knows our position loud and clear"
  • Subject didn't come up in recent phone conversation, he says
  • Saudi court sentenced victim of gang rape to 200 lashes, jail time
  • Court says sentence related to meeting with a man, not rape
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush said Tuesday that Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah "knows our position loud and clear" on the punishment of the victim of a gang rape.

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President Bush said he would be angry with a state that did not support a rape victim.

However, Bush said he did not recall having raised the issue during a recent telephone conversation with the king.

The woman was sentenced to 200 lashes and six months in prison for violating the kingdom's strict Islamic law by being alone with an unrelated man before the rape.

The president said during a White House news conference that upon learning of the case, "My first thoughts were these: What happens if this happened to my daughter? How would I react? And I would have been ... I would have been very emotional, of course.

"I'd have been angry at those who committed the crime. And I would be angry at a state that didn't support the victim.

"And our opinions were expressed by [White House press secretary] Dana Perino from the podium."

Asked whether he personally had pressed King Abdullah about the matter, Bush responded, "I talked to King Abdullah about the Middle Eastern peace. I don't remember if that subject came up. ... He knows our position loud and clear."

Last month, the Saudi Ministry of Justice said the woman had had an "illegitimate relationship" with a man who was not her husband, and that she was raped by seven men after she and the man she was with were discovered in a "compromising situation, her clothes on the ground."

The woman, now 19, was initially sentenced to 90 lashes for meeting with the man -- described by the woman's attorney as a former friend from whom she was simply retrieving a photograph.

When she appealed her sentence, a Saudi court more than doubled it. The rapists initially received sentences ranging from 10 months to five years in prison.

After the woman's appeal, the Qatif General Court also increased the sentence for the rapists, to two to nine years in prison.

The Justice Ministry had previously said the woman's sentence was increased after evidence came to light against her when she appealed her original sentence.

The attacks took place in the eastern city of Qatif in March 2006, when the woman was 18 and engaged to be married.

Her husband has told CNN that "from the onset, my wife was dealt with as a guilty person who committed a crime. She was not given any chance to prove her innocence or describe how she was a victim of multiple brutal rapes."

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Under Saudi Arabia's Islamic law, women are subject to numerous restrictions, including a strict dress code, a prohibition against driving and a requirement that they get a man's permission to travel or undergo surgery.

The rape victim's husband, who has not been identified publicly in order to protect the identity of his wife, said he considered his wife's decision to meet with the man "a bad choice on her part," but denied that she had admitted meeting with the man illicitly. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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