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S.Arabia not mulling paralysis penalty for attacker

RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi officials are trying to persuade a man paralysed in a fight in the conservative kingdom to accept compensation for his injuries and drop a demand that his attacker have his spinal cord severed, a judicial spokesman said on Monday.

Amnesty International had said earlier that the court in the province of Tabuk approached a number of hospitals about the possibility of paralysing the attacker in a medical setting. Amnesty urged the state not to carry out such a penalty.

The spokesman for the court said it had ruled for monetary compensation to be paid to 22-year-old Abdulaziz al-Mutairi and that the Tabuk provincial governor, Prince Fahad Bin Sultan, had ordered mediation between the two parties.

“Mutairi did request that the attacker face the same bodily harm he received, but the court ruled that he is to obtain a financial compensation agreed upon between the two parties,” the spokesman said.

“When Mutairi insisted that the assailant face the same condition he is in, we contacted hospitals to persuade him that such operation may cause death. The governor is sending envoys to mediate,” he added.

Saudi Arabia, a close U.S. ally, follows an austere version of Sunni Islam that includes floggings for some offences, amputations for thieves, and public beheadings for crimes including murder, rape and drug smuggling.

Human rights activists say that while Islamic law stipulates like-for-like punishments, victims or their surviving family members can often be persuaded to forgive an assailant, often in exchange for monetary compensation.

In this case, the attacker has already been convicted of severing Mutairi’s spinal cord with a cleaver during a fight, according to Amnesty. The offender was sentenced to pay compensation but remains in jail until the amount is agreed.

It was not clear whether the attacker might face any further penalty beyond financial compensation. It was also not clear who started the fight.

The Saudi justice ministry could not be immediately reached for comment.

Reporting by Souhail Karam; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Mark Heinrich