Saudi Criminal 'Sentenced To Be Paralysed'

A man in Saudi Arabia is waiting to be forcibly paralysed in punishment for a crime which left his victim in a wheelchair, it has emerged.

When he was 14, Ali al Khawaher stabbed a friend in the spine, paralysing him from the waist down, Amnesty International said.

The London-based human rights group said Mr al Khawaher, now 24, has spent 10 years in jail waiting to be paralysed surgically unless his family pays one million Saudi riyals (£180,000) to the victim.

Saudi Arabia applies a form of Sharia law, which allows eye-for-an-eye punishment for crimes but allows victims to pardon convicts in exchange for so-called blood money.

According to Amnesty, the man could be paralysed from the waist down if the sentence, which was passed in the eastern town of Al Ahsa, goes ahead.

The type of sentence in Sharia law is called a qisa, which means retribution.

The sentence has been condemned by the NGO, which said it had only recently learned of the man's sentence.

Ann Harrison, Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director, said: "Paralysing someone as punishment for a crime would be torture.

"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."

The Arabic-language al Hayat daily quoted Khawaher's 60-year-old mother as saying her son was a juvenile the time of the offence. She said the victim had demanded two million riyals to pardon her son and later reduced this to one 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 al Khawaher's sentence would 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 included tooth extraction, flogging, eye gouging and - in murder cases - death.

The NGO claims that the paralysis sentence would contravene the UN Convention against Torture to which Saudi Arabia is a state party.

Britain's Foreign Office also said it was deeply concerned by the reports.

"We urge the Saudi authorities to ensure that this grotesque punishment is not carried out," a spokesman said.

"Such practices are prohibited under international law and have no place in any society."

The Saudis have yet to comment on the reports.