Thursday, 7 February 2008

Saudi police arrest American businesswoman for drinking coffee with a man

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Today's Times reports on the arrest of a 37-year-old American businesswoman in Saudi Arabia for the heinous crime of sitting in a Riyadh branch of Starbucks with a male colleague.

The woman, who lives in Jeddah with her husband, was visiting her company's Riyadh offices when a power cut forced her and her colleagues to visit Starbucks to use wireless internet. She was sat in a curtained booth with her male business partner when officers from Saudi Arabia's Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice arrived and arrested her, accusing her of committing a "great sin".

She was then taken to a nearby prison where, according to the Times, she was "interrogated, strip-searched and forced to sign and fingerprint a series of confessions pleading guilty to her 'crime'."

Eventually appearing before a judge she was told "You are sinful and you are going to burn in hell". Her husband, a prominent businessman, was able to secure her quick release through his political contacts and the woman has now pledged to stay in Saudi and challenge its repressive laws.

Recognising the part played by her husband in her release, she acknowledged that other female victims of the Saudi regime are not so fortunate, saying “I was lucky. I met other women in that prison who don't have the connections I did.”