Saudi must release man in paralysis case – lobbyists

Man convicted of paralysing friend must pay compensation of $266,000 or stay in jail indefinitely
Saudi must release man in paralysis case – lobbyists
By Daniel Shane
Sun 14 Apr 2013 12:50 PM

Lobbyists have called on Saudi Arabia to release a man who faces indefinite detention after being convicted of paralysing a friend almost a decade ago.

Thirty-one year old Ali al-Khawahar completed a six-year criminal sentence in 2010 as punishment for a 2004 stabbing incident that left a friend paralysed.

In addition, al-Khawahar was also set to face ‘Qisas’, an eye-for-an-eye judgement that would have seen him permanently paralysed if he could not pay sufficient compensation to the victim.

Following international outcry, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Justice stated on April 8 that the court would not apply Qisas, leaving compensation as the only alternative. The victim is said to be demanding SR1m ($266,000) in payment.

“Ali al-Khawahar has served his sentence, and should not remain imprisoned just because he and his family are too poor to pay compensation” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at lobbyist group Human Rights Watch (HRW).

“What kind of justice system lets rich people out of prison but keeps poor people jailed forever if they don’t have money to pay a fine?”

A source told HRW that al-Khawahar was not permitted to have a lawyer represent him when in court in 2004, and did not dispute the charges.

HRW said that the Qisas system to discriminates in favour of wealthier convicts, who are able to pay victims compensation and avoid physical punishment sentences.

Al-Khawahar is said to be held in the General Prison of al-Ahsa, where he has attempted suicide on several occasions.

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