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Maldives government to appeal flogging of rape victim

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The Maldivian government said Thursday it would seek to overturn a court decision to publicly flog a 15-year-old rape victim convicted of having premarital sex.

The unidentified girl was charged after police investigating a complaint that she was raped by her step-father found that she had also been having consensual sex with another man.

A spokesman for President Mohamed Waheed said he was shocked by the sentence handed down by a juvenile court, meaning the teenager would receive 100 lashes when she reaches 18.

"The president has asked the attorney general to appeal against the lower court decision," spokesman Abbas Adil Riza told AFP. "The girl will also be provided with the necessary legal counsel and we hope the case will be concluded in about a month."

Waheed said on his Facebook page that he was "saddened" by the sentence, which was decried by rights groups.

Premarital sex is illegal in the popular honeymoon destination, which observes elements of Islamic Sharia law as well as English common law.

The child's stepfather faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted of rape and on a murder charge, after he allegedly killed a baby which resulted from his alleged rape of his stepdaughter.

Rights groups including Human Rights Watch have condemned the flogging sentence, saying she should be treated as a victim of a sexual crime. The UN has repeatedly asked the Maldives to end the "barbaric practice" of flogging women.

London-based Amnesty International has organised a public petition against the flogging and asked Waheed to commute her sentence.

"The Maldives must impose a moratorium on flogging as a form of punishment, as it is a violation of the absolute prohibition on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment..." Amnesty said.

Tourists and locals are kept apart in the Maldives, with the expensive five-star holiday resorts favoured by the rich and famous subject to different rules to the rest of the country.

In September a court in the Maldives ordered the public flogging of a 16-year-old who confessed to premarital sex. Her lover was jailed for 10 years.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130228/maldives-government-appeal-flogging-rape-victim