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Thursday, October 28, 2021

Qatar court finds Dutch woman, Syrian man guilty of illicit sex


Lower criminal court in Doha
Lower criminal court in Doha

Updated with more information about the charges and remarks from Laura’s mother

A Dutch woman in Qatar has been ordered to pay a fine and serve a suspended jail term after being found guilty of having illicit consensual sex and being drunk in a public place.

The 22-year-old woman made headlines around the world over the weekend after her mother told Dutch media that police arrested her in March when she reported being raped.

The defendant, known as Laura, will now be deported and be on probation for the next three years, only serving jail time if she returns to court on any other charges.

Meanwhile, her alleged attacker, a Syrian man identified in court as Omar Abdullah Al-Hassan, pleaded guilty to charges of illicit consensual sex and for drinking alcohol.

Because he is Muslim, he was sentenced to 100 lashes and 40 lashes, respectively. However, he faces no jail time.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

According to a legal source who cited court documents, Laura denied both charges leveled against her.

The penalty for sex outside of marriage is a one-year suspended jail term and the drunkenness carries a fine of QR3,000.

Issuing the verdict in a packed courtroom full of international media and in the presence of the Dutch ambassador to Qatar this morning, the court ordered both defendants to be deported after serving their terms.

Neither were in court for the hearing.

Laura’s family went public with the story of her jailing on Saturday, ahead of the verdict.

The news has sparked an international outcry and thousands have been posting online under hashtag #FreeLaura calling for her release.

Speaking to Doha News outside of the courtroom, the Netherlands Ambassador to Qatar Yvette Burghgraef-van Eechoud said she hoped Laura would be released from prison in the coming days.

“We will do everything we can to get her out of the country as soon as possible to where she says she wanted to go.”

She added that she spoke to Laura extensively on the phone and she is fine given the circumstances. She has asked people to respect her privacy, however.

Conflicting reports

Laura had apparently been on vacation in Qatar and attended a party at a hotel in West Bay in March.

According to her mother’s lawyer, she felt unwell after drinking and woke up in an unfamiliar apartment and feared she had been raped.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

However, a legal source told Doha News that the two were drinking in a bar at the W Doha and then left the hotel and went back to her home.

The source said that according to Al-Hassan, Laura asked him for money, which he refused. She then asked for his mobile phone, and he gave it to her, and then they had sex.

It is unclear how the police heard about the case, and if she reported a rape to authorities. But after the encounter, both Laura and Al-Hassan were jailed for having sex outside of marriage.

‘Set up’

Several stories published yesterday in Dutch media asserted that Laura was working for an escort service and had gotten into a disagreement with her alleged attacker about payment after having sex.

Speaking to Doha News last night from the Netherlands, Laura’s mother Marian said this was untrue, adding, “She was set up, I believe it was a scam.”

She  added that she hadn’t known about the alleged rape until about a week ago. Before that, her daughter had only told she’d been robbed.

Laura waited to tell her about the sexual assault because she was ashamed, the mother said.

Speaking to Doha News after the verdict today, the mother added: “I’m so happy, I’m beyond happy. How great is this? She’s coming home.”


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