Middle East

Amnesty 'outrage' at Saudi paralysis sentence

A syringe, stock image
The law of retribution means the victim can demand his attacker suffers the same punishment as he caused

The reported sentencing of paralysis for a Saudi man as punishment for paralysing another man has been described as "outrageous" by a leading human rights group.

Saudi reports say the 24-year-old man could be paralysed from the waist down if he cannot pay his victim one million riyals (£250,000) in compensation.

Amnesty International says the sentence is a form of torture.

The man has been in prison for 10 years since he stabbed a friend in the back.

Saudi newspapers say Ali al-Khawahir was 14 when he paralysed his friend in the attack in the Eastern Province town of al-Ahsa.

The law of qisas, or retribution, in Saudi Arabia means his victim can demand that he suffers exactly the same punishment as he caused.

"Paralysing someone as punishment for a crime would be torture," said Ann Harrison, Middle East and North Africa deputy director at Amnesty.

"It is time the authorities in Saudi Arabia start respecting their international legal obligations and remove these terrible punishments from the law."

This is the latest example of Saudi Arabia's fundamentalist interpretation of Islamic law attracting international criticism.

Amnesty says the law has seen judicially approved eye-gougings and tooth extractions.

The rights group condemns the practice as tantamount to torture, urging that the latest punishment must not be enforced.

Amnesty's intervention will certainly fuel a growing debate in Saudi Arabia itself over its style of justice, says the BBC's Arab affairs editor, Sebastian Usher.

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