Qatar Jails 22 Year-Old Dutch Woman for Reporting She was Drugged and Rape
QATAR – A 22 year-old Dutch woman who told Qatari police she had been drugged and raped in March has been in government detention ever since on unclear charges, a lawyer said Saturday.
An online twitter campaign #FreeLaura has been launched to free the 22 year-old after she was arrested for having sex outside of marriage by reporting that she had been raped.
The Dutch Embassy in Qatar confirmed the woman remained held ahead of a scheduled hearing Monday in Doha, which will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
The case highlights the clash between the Islamic-based legal codes governing Qatar and other Gulf nations as they try to draw in tourists expecting the protection of Western-style laws.
The 22-year-old woman, was on a vacation with a friend, she went out for drinks at a hotel bar in the Qatari capital on March 15, lawyer Brian Lokollo said.
While there, she believes someone “messed with her drink” and her memory became hazy, Lokollo said. She later awoke alone, her clothes torn and the victim of a rape, he said.
She was immediately detained after reporting the attack, Lokollo said. She has appeared three times in court and thinks she may face an adultery charge for having sex out of wedlock, he said. The man she reported as her assailant has also been detained, he said.
Initially, her family and her employer wanted to keep the case quiet and try to work it out locally, but decided to go public this weekend with Dutch media.
In a statement, the Dutch Embassy said it is “in close contact with the defendant and her family” and has provided consular services.
“We have provided assistance to her since the first day of detention,” it said.
Qatari officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The state-run Qatar News Agency did not report on the case Saturday.
Alcohol is available at high-end hotels in Qatar and duty-free shops at its massive international airport. However, residents must have permission from their employers to buy at the country’s only government-run liquor store. Sex out of wedlock is illegal.
Simliar cases have occurred elsewhere in the Gulf.
In 2008, an Australian woman said she was jailed for eight months after reporting that she was gang-raped at a hotel in the United Arab Emirates. In 2013, a Norwegian woman who reported being raped in Dubai received a 16-month sentence for having sex outside of marriage, though she was pardoned and allowed to leave the country.
The Dutch woman’s imprisonment in gas-rich Qatar comes as the tiny country on the Arabian Peninsula prepares to host the World Cup. Already, human rights activists have raised questions about conditions for laborers in the country.
Lokollo said his client’s case would raise fresh concerns.
“It will make people realize that travel to Qatar is not free from risk,” he said.
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