To avoid 100 lashes and prison, woman retracts plea in sex case

A Moroccan woman who was charged with having premarital sex retracted her guilty plea yesterday.

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Abu Dhabi // A Moroccan woman who was charged with having premarital sex with an Emirati man retracted her guilty plea yesterday after being told she would receive 100 lashes and a prison sentence. The woman, identified as SM, and the man, KK, were charged with the same offence in the Abu Dhabi Criminal Court of First Instance. KK denied the charge and said a description of his home SM provided to prosecutors was flawed and therefore undermined the evidence against him.

Under Sharia law, a conviction for premarital sex that has been denied requires four reliable witnesses to testify to the offence. But in pleading guilty, SM automatically made herself eligible for the mandatory punishment for the crime of 100 lashes. In Abu Dhabi, offenders may receive prison time in addition to lashes. After she entered her plea, Judge Syed Abdul Baseer explained the punishment and asked SM whether she wanted to reconsider.

"The punishment is lashing and jail," Judge Abdul Baseer told her. "You have the right to deny." "I'll get the verdict and he leaves?" SM asked, referring to her co-defendant. "Choose as you wish," Judge Abdul Baseer said. SM then retracted her guilty plea. Judge Abdul Baseer said he would issue a verdict on October 11. KK and SM both attended the hearing but were not represented by lawyers. Their ages were not released.

In July, a divorced Saudi woman who had been charged with adultery, which is considered a more serious crime than premarital sex, retracted her guilty plea in an Abu Dhabi court to avoid a sentence of death by stoning. Although the woman was divorced, she would still have been eligible for the capital punishment. She was later sentenced to one year in prison after the charges of adultery and justification of sin - claiming that a sin is acceptable - were reduced to consensual dishonour.