RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – Saudi Arabia's king waived a flogging sentence on a female journalist charged for involvement in a risque TV show, the second such pardoning of such a high profile case by the monarch in recent years.
King Abdullah's decision to waive 22-year-old journalist Rozanna al-Yami's sentence of 60 lashes by a judge in Jiddah follows intense international media attention.
The journalist was charged with helping coordinate a talk show on a Lebanese channel featuring a Saudi man describing what appeared to be his active sex life. Though the charges against her were dropped, the judge ordered the flogging as a "deterent" al-Yami said.
In November 2007, the king waived a flogging sentence of 90 lashes against a rape victim for being alone in a car with an unrelated man shortly before the two were attacked.
The case also evoked international outrage over the Saudi judiciary.
On Monday, Information Ministry spokesman Abdul-Rahman al-Hazza told The Associated Press that the king waived the sentence and ordered al-Yami's case and that of another journalist — a pregnant woman also accused of involvement in the program — be referred to a committee in the ministry.
Al-Hazza said the king made his decision after he was briefed by Information Minister Abdel Aziz Khoja.
The committee, which usually has a Justice Ministry representative but no judges sitting on it, deals with media-related violations, al-Hazza said.
Al-Yami, 22, worked as a coordinator for the program but has denied involvement in the sex-related episode.
The case started in July, when the Lebanese LBC satellite channel aired the sex talk episode as part of its program entitled "Bold Red Line."
In the episode, a divorced Saudi father of four who works for the national airline, Mazen Abdul-Jawad, appears to describe an active sex life and shows sex toys that were blurred by the station in the footage shown on TV.
The government moved swiftly in the wake of the case, shutting down LBC's two offices in the kingdom and arresting Abdul-Jawad.
The same judge at the Jiddah court also sentenced Abdul-Jawad earlier this month to five years in jail and 1,000 lashes. Three other men who appeared on the show were also convicted of discussing sex publicly and sentenced to two years imprisonment and 300 lashes each.
The man's lawyer, Sulaiman al-Jumeii, maintains his client was duped by the TV station and was unaware in many cases he was being recorded.
On Monday, he urged Khoja to intercede with the king to include all those involved in the case under the same Information Ministry committee.
"They are being tried by a court that is not specialized in this issue and has not even summoned LBC or watched the raw film," he said in a statement.
"Justice should not be divided as long as it is one case," he added.