Riyadh’s ‘paralysis’ sentence condemned

Riyadh’s ‘paralysis’ sentence condemned

LONDON - Reuters
Riyadh’s ‘paralysis’ sentence condemned

Police officers detain an illegal African immigrant in Riyadh in this photo. REUTERS photo

Amnesty International has condemned a reported Saudi Arabian court ruling that a young man should be paralyzed as punishment for a crime he committed 10 years ago which resulted in the victim being confined to a wheelchair.

The London-based human rights group said Ali al-Khawaher, 24, was reported to have spent 10 years in jail waiting to be paralyzed surgically unless his family pays one million $270,000 to the victim. The Saudi Gazette newspaper reported last week that Khawaher had stabbed a childhood friend in the spine during a dispute a decade ago, paralyzing him from the waist down.

‘Utterly shocking’

“Paralyzing someone as punishment for a crime would be torture,” Ann Harrison, Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director, said in a statement. “That such a punishment might be implemented is utterly shocking, even in a context where flogging is frequently imposed as a punishment for some offences, as happens in Saudi Arabia,” she added.

Saudi Arabia applies Islamic sharia law, which allows eye-for-an-eye punishment for crimes but allows victims to pardon convicts in exchange for so-called blood money. Saudi judges have in the past ordered shariah punishments that include tooth extraction, flogging, eye gouging and - in murder cases - death.

The al-Hayat daily quoted al-Khawaher’s 60-year-old mother as saying her son was a juvenile aged 14 at the time of the offence. She said the victim had demanded $540,000 to pardon her son and later reduced this to $270,000. “But we don’t have even a tenth of this sum,” she said. The daily said an unnamed philanthropist was trying to raise funds to pay the blood money, but it was not clear how much time remained before Khawaher’s sentence was to be carried out.