- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 8, 2009

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia | A Saudi court on Wednesday convicted a man for publicly talking about sex, after he bragged on a TV talk show about his exploits, and sentenced him to five years in prison and 1,000 lashes, his lawyer said.

Talking about sex publicly is a taboo in ultraconservative Saudi Arabia.

Sulaiman al-Jumeii, the man’s lawyer, said he plans to appeal the court’s ruling and is confident the sentence against his client, which includes a ban on travel and talking to the media for five years after his release, will be revoked.

Mr. al-Jumeii said there is no specific law in the Saudi penal code “that defines punishment for talking or bragging.” He said he assumes the judge based his decision on Islamic law, which forms the general basis of the justice system and stipulates that people should not talk about engaging in immoral behavior.

He maintains that his client, Mazen Abdul-Jawad, was duped by the Lebanese LBC satellite channel that aired the talk show and that he was unaware in many instances he was being recorded.

“I hope you will not consider the case closed,” the lawyer said. “I will continue pursuing the TV channel, even if no one stands by me, until it gets the punishment it deserves.”

The program, which aired July 15 on LBC and was seen in Saudi Arabia, scandalized this conservative country where such frank talk is rarely heard in public. Some 200 people filed legal complaints against Mr. Abdul-Jawad, who works for the national airline.

The program, “Bold Red Line,” begins with Mr. Abdul-Jawad, dubbed a “sex braggart” and “Casanova” by the media, describing the first time he had sex, at 14. He then leads viewers into his bedroom, dominated by red accessories, and then shows off blurred sex toys.

He is later joined by three male friends for a discussion on what turns them on.

Mr. Abdul-Jawad’s lawyer maintains his client was referring to other people’s sexual experiences and that the toys were provided by the TV station.

The government moved swiftly in the wake of the case, shutting down LBC’s two offices in the kingdom and arresting Mr. Abdul-Jawad.

The other three men on the show were also convicted of discussing sex publicly and sentenced to two years imprisonment and 300 lashes each, according to Mr. al-Jumeii.

Mr. al-Jumeii said the decision in the case was made “under pressure from public opinion” because of the media frenzy surrounding it.

The kingdom, which is the birthplace of Islam, enforces strict segregation of the sexes. An unrelated couple, for example, can be detained for being alone in the same car or having a cup of coffee in public.

Saudis observe such segregation even at home, where they have separate rooms for male and female guests.

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