Saudi King Pardons Rape Victim

Katzman sees legal reform as a challenge across the region. "What we're seeing not only in Saudi but in other Gulf Arab states is they're rapidly modernizing in some areas but the judiciaries tend to remain in the hands of conservative clergy, so legal reform tends to be the slowest," he said.

There were some particularly religious women who supported the court's ruling to punish the victim, Huwaider told ABC News. But a royal pardon was the outcome she expected, as objections to the case spread across the kingdom and over sectarian lines.

"The educated Shia and the Sunni were against it. I think that's really good. It gives good confidence that people can come together and can be cooperating together if there's something wrong going on."

The victim's attorney, human rights lawyer Abdul Rahman Al-Lahem, had his license revoked for talking to the press about the Qatif case.

The Saudi Ministry of Justice had accused him of "faulty behaviors [that] contradict the ethics of his profession and violate the provisions of practicing law," a move Lahem interpreted as retaliation for taking on the controversial case.

With additional reporting from Mohamed Kadry.

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