A Saudi preacher has received the sentence of eight years imprisonment and 800 lashes for the murder of his 5-year-old daughter, who he allegedly raped and severely beat to the point of death two years ago. The sentence has been blasted as lenient by activists in the country, who had campaigned for an appropriate sentence to be handed down in the run up to the case.
On Monday a judge found Fayhan al-Ghamdi, a preacher who often appears on television in Saudi Arabia, guilty of beating and torturing his 5-year-old daughter, Lama, to death back in 2011. Along with the sentence of eight years and 800 lashings, the judge also ruled that Ghamdi pay $270,000 in "blood money" to his ex-wife and the girl's mother, Syeda Mohammed Ali. The girl's mother had previously requested a payment of $2.7 million.
"The girl's mother ceded her original request to sentence the father to death," Mohammed Almadi of Saudi Arabia's Human Rights Commission told CNN recently. "She has since asked for the father to pay her blood money instead, which is her right in the Saudi legal system." Under Saudi law, because the mother accepted the "blood money" offer, she could no longer pursue a life sentence charge for her former husband.
Five-year-old Lama al-Ghamdi was admitted to a hospital in the town of Riyadh in December 2011 after being severely beaten while in her father's care. The girl suffered broken ribs, a fractured skull, a broken arm, severe burns and extensive bruising. A social worker from the hospital also indicated the girl had been raped in multiple places, although her mother later denied claims that the rape was done by the father. The child had allegedly been beaten with electric cables and a cane, and some reports indicated her father was attempting to punish her after hearing her virginity had been compromised. She died 10 months later in October 2012.
Ghamdi is not recognized as a legitimate cleric in Saudi Arabia but appears as a guest preacher on multiple television shows. His court case gained widespread media attention, especially after it was announced earlier this year that he may walk free after a judge stated that one interpretation of Islamic law shows fathers cannot be held fully accountable for their child's death.
Outrage over Ghamdi's case caused activists to form the "I Am Lama" campaign to pressure the court to give Ghamdi a fair sentence. One of the campaign's activists, Manal al-Sharif, told the BBC that although she ultimately feels Ghamdi's sentence was not strong enough, she does believe her campaign and public outrage over the case led the country to recently pass an unprecedented law strengthening the punishment for domestic abuse crimes.