Saudi Cops Grab U.S. Woman In Starbucks

Unidentified Saudi women walk along a suburban street in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in this Nov. 15, 2006 file photo. The kingdom's judicial system, particularly the wide discretion judges have in sentencing criminals, has come under scrutiny following the gang rape of a 19-year-old woman and her male friend. AP

An American businesswoman was carted off to jail by religious police in Saudi Arabia for sitting with a male colleague at a Starbucks in Riyadh, the Times of London reported.

The woman, who spent a day behind bars, was strip-searched and forced to sign a false confession before being released, the newspaper said. The Times declined to publish her name at her request.

The 37-year-old businesswoman works for a finance company in Riyadh. Her problem began when her office lost electricity. She and her male colleagues then went to a nearby Starbucks to use the coffee shop's Internet connection.

She sat with a male colleague in the Starbucks' family area, the only place women are allowed to sit with men.

"Some men came up to us with very long beards and white dresses. They asked 'Why are you here together?' I explained about the power being out in our office. They got very angry and told me what I was doing was a great sin," she told the Times.

Following her arrest and interrogation, the woman was hauled before a judge.

"He said 'You are sinful and you are going to burn in hell.' I told him I was sorry. I was very submissive. I had given up. I felt hopeless," she told the Times.

The newspaper said the woman had received a visit from officials at the U.S. embassy in Saudi Arabia. A U.S. official told The Times that it was being treated as "an internal Saudi matter" and refused to comment on her case.
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