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    Dutch woman who reported rape in Qatar faces extramarital sex charge

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    A Free Laura campaign is gaining traction on social media.
    A Free Laura campaign is gaining traction on social media.

    An online campaign has been launched to free a Dutch woman in Qatar who was arrested for having sex outside of marriage after reporting that she had been raped.

    Speaking to Doha News, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the woman was arrested on March 14 and is expected to face charges of fornication as well as an alcohol-related offense.

    She’s been identified in Dutch media as Laura.

    The defendant is scheduled to appear in court on Monday. Ahead of the hearing, hundreds of people on Twitter are calling for her release under the hashtag #FreeLaura.

    http://twitter.com/ShabirMaiwand/status/741603412119281664

    http://twitter.com/dallicious050/status/741600535099396096

    http://twitter.com/JacobienB1/status/741372625746833409

    What happened

    Today, Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reported that Laura was at a party at a West Bay hotel in March when she consumed a drink that made her “feel unwell.”

    Citing her mother and her mother’s lawyer, the publication said that Laura woke up the next morning in an unfamiliar apartment and feared she had been raped.

    But when she reported this to the police, she was arrested for having extramarital sex, the lawyer said.

    Meanwhile, her alleged attacker – also an expat – has also been jailed, but said the sex was consensual, the newspaper said.

    In a statement, the Embassy of the Kingdom of The Netherlands in Qatar told Doha News:

    “The Dutch government and embassy are in close contact with the defendant and her family in the Netherlands. We have provided assistance to her since the first day of detention. For the sake of the defendant’s case we will not make further comments at this point.”

    Rape in Qatar

    Statistics about rape in Qatar are not publicly available, but officials maintain that the number of sexual assaults here is low.

    However, this could be due to under-reporting, Qatar’s former justice minister told Doha News in 2013 following the rape of a Norwegian woman in the UAE who worked here.

    For illustrative purposes only.
    For illustrative purposes only.

    At the time, Dr. Najeeb al-Nuaimi, who is now a criminal lawyer, said when such attacks happen, they should immediately be reported to police, so that evidence can be collected.

    The case is then referred to the prosecutor’s office, to evaluate whether a crime took place.

    Though witnesses are not required to secure rape convictions in Qatar, physical evidence is very important.

    “She could push him (or) resist the movement by moving her hands – that would show a mark or scratch, which proves that she was under a physical struggle,” al-Nuaimi said. “But if that doesn’t show, she’s lying. That’s clear for any investigator.”

    However, rape support groups counter that a woman may not resist because she is scared and trying to survive the attack, and that her testimony should be the most important factor.

    Thoughts?

    Editor’s note:

    It is our policy at Doha News not to identify victims of sexual assault or suicide unless the families themselves come forward. Laura’s mom has identified her publicly and launched a campaign to free her. Sharing her photo is a part of that campaign and now part of the story.

    Peter Kovessy
    Peter Kovessy is a reporter with Doha News. Prior to moving to Qatar in 2013, he was the editor of the Ottawa Business Journal in Canada. He holds a Bachelor of Journalism degree from Carleton University.

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    Updated on August 8, 2020 10:38 pm

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