Judge considers paralysis punishment
August 20, 2010 - 2:55PM
A Saudi judge has asked several hospitals in the country whether they could damage a man's spinal cord as punishment after he was convicted of attacking another man with a cleaver and paralysing him, the older brother of the victim says.
Abdul-Aziz al-Mutairi, 22, was left paralysed and subsequently lost a foot after a fight more than two years ago. He asked a judge in north-western Tabuk province to impose an equivalent punishment on his attacker under Islamic law, his brother Khaled al-Mutairi, 27, said.
He said one of the hospitals, located in Tabuk, responded, saying it was possible to damage the spinal cord, but the operation had to be done at a more specialised facility.
Saudi newspapers reported on Thursday that a second hospital in the capital, Riyadh, declined, saying it could not inflict such harm.
Administrative offices of two of the hospitals and the court in Tabuk were closed for the Saudi weekend beginning on Thursday and could not be reached for comment.
Saudi Arabia enforces strict Islamic law and occasionally doles out punishments based on the ancient legal code of an eye for an eye. However, King Abdullah has been trying to clamp down on extremist ideology, including unauthorised clerics issuing odd religious decrees.
The query by the court, among the most unusual and extreme to have been made public in the kingdom, highlights the delicate attempt in Saudi Arabia to balance a push to modernise the country with interpretations of religious traditions that critics say are out of sync with a modern society.
Saudi newspaper Okaz identified the judge as Saoud bin Suleiman al-Youssef.
The brother said the judge asked at least two hospitals for a medical opinion on whether surgeons could render the attacker's spinal cord nonfunctional. He and Saudi newspaper reports did not identify the attacker.
Khaled al-Mutairi said the assailant was sentenced to 14 months in prison for the attack, but he was released after seven months, in an amnesty. He said the attacker then got a job as a teacher in a university.
"We are asking for our legal right under Islamic law," the brother said. "There is no better word than God's word - an eye for an eye."
He said he had a copy of the response from King Khaled Hospital in Tabuk province to the court's request, saying the operation could be done.
Okaz reported that a leading hospital in Riyadh - King Faisal Specialist Hospital - said it could not do the operation, saying "inflicting such harm is not possible", apparently refusing on ethical grounds.
Human rights group say trials in Saudi Arabia usually take place behind closed doors and without adequate legal representation.
Amnesty International expressed concerns over the reports and said it was contacting Saudi authorities for details.
"We are very concerned and we will appeal to the authorities not to carry out such a punishment," said Lamri Chirouf, the group's researcher on Saudi Arabia.
Such measures are against international conventions against torture and international standards on human rights.
I feel all cozy, like I want to kiss the Australian flag.