JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) - A court in Saudi Arabia is considering deliberately paralyzing a man as punishment after he was convicted of severing the spinal cord of another person with a cleaver during a fight, Amnesty International said on Sunday.
Amnesty said a court in the northwest province of Tabuk had approached a number of hospitals about the possibility of cutting the man’s spinal cord in a medical setting, after the victim requested such a punishment.
“It is reported that one hospital said that it could be done by a special medical center. As Amnesty International we have appealed to the Ministry of Justice,” Amnesty spokesman Lamri Chirous told Reuters by telephone from London.
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson could not be immediately reached to comment on the Amnesty report.
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 attacker, often in exchange for monetary compensation.
“This is written in the Koran, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth and a soul for a soul... Islam calls for forgiveness but if the victim insists then it is his right,” said Ahmed Almobi, an Islamic scholar and writer in Saudi Arabia.
Amnesty, which said the man lacked legal assistance during his trial, urged the government not to carry out the punishment. It said the court had the option to instead sentence the man to jail, flogging or a financial penalty.
“While those guilty of a crime should be held accountable, intentionally paralyzing a man in this way would constitute torture,” Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, acting director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme, said in a statement.
Reporting by Asma Alsharif; Editing by Cynthia Johnston