DUBAI (Reuters) - 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 Saudi riyals ($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.
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.
“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 late on Tuesday.
“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.
A government-approved Saudi human rights group did not respond to requests for comment.
The Arabic-language al-Hayat daily quoted 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 2 million riyals to pardon her son and later reduced this to 1 million. “But we don’t have even a tenth of this sum,” she said.
Al-Hayat 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.
Amnesty said the case demonstrated the need for Saudi Arabia to review its laws to “start respecting their international obligations and remove these terrible punishments from the law”.
Saudi judges have in the past ordered sharia punishments that include tooth extraction, flogging, eye gouging and - in murder cases - death.
Reporting by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Alistair Lyon