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'Torture' punishment: Saudi sentence man to be paralyzed

Published time: April 04, 2013 08:12
Picture shows the General Court in Riyadh (AFP Photo)

Picture shows the General Court in Riyadh (AFP Photo)

A Saudi Arabian court has allegedly ordered a man to be paralyzed for stabbing his friend 10 years ago. The defendant’s family will have to pay out $266,000 or have their son face a sentence decried as “torture” by Amnesty International.

Twenty-four-year-old Ali al-Khawaher stabbed his friend in the back when he was 14, putting the victim in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Islamic Sharia law, which is enforced in Saudi Arabia, allows for ‘eye-for-an-eye’ punishment in such cases, or monetary compensation for the victim.

The court ruling provoked the ire of international human rights organization Amnesty International, which likened the sentence to torture.

"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 offenses, as happens in Saudi Arabia."

Harrison stressed it was high time the “authorities in Saudi Arabia start respecting their international legal obligations and remove these terrible punishments from the law.”

Reports say that al-Khawaher has been awaiting his punishment in jail for the past 10 years.

“Ten years have passed with hundreds of sleepless nights. My hair has become grey at a young age because of my son’s problem,” al-Khawaher’s mother told the Saudi Gazette. “I have been frightened to death whenever I think about my son’s fate and that he will have to be paralyzed.”

Furthermore, she told Arabic language news daily al-Hayat that previously the compensation for the family of the victim had been double but was later reduced. She told the publication that the family did not even have a tenth of the 1 million Saudi riyals ($266,000) necessary to save their son from paralysis.

Corporal punishment is common in Saudi Arabia, where flogging is an obligatory punishment for a number of offences. Additionally, amputation is practiced as a punishment, but is mainly confined to cases of theft.

Al-Khawaher’a case is known as gisas (retribution), which can incur such punishments as eye-gouging, tooth extraction and execution where the original crime committed was murder. However, the victim can call for a pardon or monetary compensation instead of corporal punishment.