Author Topic: BBC - Pleas for condemned Saudi 'witch'  (Read 897 times)

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Offline abdullahazzam

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BBC - Pleas for condemned Saudi 'witch'
« on: February 14, 2008, 02:58:42 PM »
I read some disturbing news on the BBC today:

BBC News - Pleas for condemned Saudi 'witch'

Thursday 140208 12:17 GMT

"Human Rights Watch has appealed to Saudi Arabia to halt the execution of a woman convicted of witchcraft.
In a letter to King Abdullah, the rights group described the trial and conviction of Fawza Falih as a miscarriage of justice.

The illiterate woman was detained by religious police in 2005 and allegedly beaten and forced to fingerprint a confession that she could not read.

Among her accusers was a man who alleged she made him impotent.

Human Rights Watch said that Ms Falih had exhausted all her chances of appealing against her death sentence and she could only now be saved if King Abdullah intervened.

'Undefined' crime

The US-based group is asking the Saudi ruler to void Ms Falih's conviction and to bring charges against the religious police who detained her and are alleged to have mistreated her.

Its letter to King Abdullah says the woman was tried for the undefined crime of witchcraft and that her conviction was on the basis of the written statements of witnesses who said that she had bewitched them.

Human Rights Watch says the trial failed to meet the safeguards in the Saudi justice system.

The confession which the defendant was forced to fingerprint was not even read out to her, the group says.

Also Ms Falih and her representatives were not allowed to attend most of the hearings.

When an appeal court decided she should not be executed, the law courts imposed the death sentence again, arguing that it would be in the public interest."

Human Rights Watch's site also carries this:

"Saudi Arabia: Halt Woman’s Execution for ‘Witchcraft’

Fawza Falih’s Case Reveals Deep Flaws in Saudi Justice System

(New York, February 14, 2008) – King Abdullah should halt the execution of Fawza Falih and void her conviction for “witchcraft,” Human Rights Watch said in a letter to the Saudi king.

The religious police who arrested and interrogated Fawza Falih and the judges who tried her in the northern town of Quraiyat never gave her the opportunity to prove her innocence against absurd charges that have no basis in law. 
 
“The fact that Saudi judges still conduct trials for unprovable crimes like ‘witchcraft’ underscores their inability to carry out objective criminal investigations,” said Joe Stork, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Fawza Falih’s case is an example of how the authorities failed to comply even with existing safeguards in the Saudi justice system.” 
 
The judges relied on Fawza Falih’s coerced confession and on the statements of witnesses who said she had “bewitched” them to convict her in April 2006. She retracted her confession in court, claiming it was extracted under duress, and that as an illiterate woman she did not understand the document she was forced to fingerprint. She also stated in her appeal that her interrogators beat her during her 35 days in detention at the hands of the religious police. At one point, she had to be hospitalized as a result of the beatings. 
 
The judges never investigated whether her confession was voluntary or reliable or investigated her allegations of torture. They never even made an inquiry as to whether she could have been responsible for allegedly supernatural occurrences, such as the sudden impotence of a man she is said to have “bewitched.” They also broke Saudi law in multiple instances, ignoring legal rules on proper procedures in a trial. 
 
The judges did not sit as a panel of three, as required for cases involving the death penalty. They excluded Fawza Falih from most trial sessions and banned a relative who was acting as her legal representative from attending any session. Earlier, her interrogators blocked her access to a lawyer and the judges, and denied her the right to professional legal representation, thus depriving her of the opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses against her. She claims that some of the witnesses were unknown to her and that others had made statements against her only as a result of beatings. 
 
Saudi Arabia does not have a written penal code, and “witchcraft” is not a defined crime. The Law of Criminal Procedure of 2002 grants defendants the right to be tried in person, to have a lawyer present during interrogation and trial, and to cross-examine any prosecution witnesses. The law obliges law enforcement officers to treat detainees humanely. 
 
An appeals court ruled in September 2006 that Fawza Falih could not be sentenced to death for “witchcraft” as a crime against God because she had retracted her confession. The lower court judges then sentenced her to death on a “discretionary” basis, for the benefit of “public interest” and to “protect the creed, souls and property of this country.” 
 
“The judges’ behavior in Fawza Falih’s trial shows they were interested in anything but a quest for the truth,” Stork said. “They completely disregarded legal guarantees that would have demonstrated how ill-founded this whole case was.” 
 
On November 2, Saudi Arabia executed Mustafa Ibrahim for sorcery in Riyadh. Ibrahim, an Egyptian working as a pharmacist in the northern town of `Ar’ar, was found guilty of having tried “through sorcery” to separate a married couple, according to a Ministry of Interior statement."

HRW's letter to King Abdullah can be read here, while more information on Saudi Arabia can be found at HRW Middle East - Saudi Arabia


Amnesty International Reprieve UK [url=http://www.worldcoa