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A Saudi woman has been sentenced to eight lashes by a court in Qatif for mistakenly sending a text message allegedly promoting the Shiite branch of Islam.
The 30-year-old woman, identified only as YH, has been pronounced guilty for sending an SMS to another Saudi woman, containing a group of telephone numbers under the name 'Shiite Islamic religious services'.
One phone number apparently led to Ayatollah Sistani, Iraq's most senior Shiite cleric who is renowned throughout the Gulf for his learned counsel on Islamic law.
The Saudi Arabian state is a staunch adherent to the Sunni branch of Islam, and publicly disparages the Shia sect. Shia Muslims are not allowed to practice their faith, or even profess their sectarian beliefs in private.
The act of calling people for Shiism, or openly advocating the Shia faith, has been pronounced as haram (forbidden and despicable in Arabic) by the Attorney General, who publicly demanded that YH be severely punished.
The sentence was eventually conferred by judge Davoud Mohammad al-Davoud, who, according to local sources, is an extremist sectarian with a history of harsh judgements.
The defendant, from the district of Awamiyya, vigorously contested the judgement.
"According to claims by the Attorney General, I have sent the SMS wrongly to an unknown number, and this might happen for anyone else, so, I do not accept the accusations," YH told the court, according to a report in Mehr News.
However, despite her vehement protestation YH has been unable to win a reprieve against her sentence.