In a Saudi city in mid-2006 a young man, Yasir,1 received a phone call from a friend asking for help. His friend was with his girlfriend, whose parents were searching for her after her school had reported her absent. At his friend’s behest Yasir offered to drive the girl home, but the girl was frightened about the consequences of her actions—which would be deemed a moral lapse—and wanted to go to the desert so she could commit suicide. Yasir told Human Rights Watch that he spent all day calming his friend’s girlfriend and convincing her that her parents would be understanding.

Meanwhile, the criminal investigation police had arrested his friend. Shortly after Yasir had dropped off his friend’s girlfriend at home, the police arrested him too. Yasir told Human Rights Watch,

The director [of the police station] met me and his behavior was very bad. He didn’t let me speak. Two other officers said [I] did this and that, and they recorded it. I denied everything, even knowing the girl. Then they beat me with a very big stick, and I confessed. I spent 10 days there, all in solitary confinement and with daily beatings. They did not interrogate the girl. They only brought her at some point to identify us. She came with her father and watched from behind the glass.

He described the court proceedings:

In court, the judge asked me and I told him what happened. It was one session that lasted 20 minutes. Only the judge and I were there. There was no prosecutor and no clerk. I could not ask the girl to verify that I was engaging in a humanitarian task and that if anyone was guilty, it was she and my friend. I could not even ask to bring my friend to speak. The judge sentenced me to six months in prison and flogging of 90 lashes. I was never imprisoned and fell under King Abdullah’s amnesty later that year, [but] fifty of the lashes were carried out. Before the trial my family settled [a private claim by] the girl’s family for a large sum of money.

1 Pseudonym.