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Reported Saudi paralysis sentence 'outrageous,' rights group says

By Mohammed Jamjoom, CNN
April 3, 2013 -- Updated 2050 GMT (0450 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A Saudi court has sentenced a man to be paralyzed if he can't pay compensation, media say
  • The man stabbed and paralyzed his friend 10 years ago, the Saudi Gazette says
  • Amnesty International says the reported sentence would be torture if carried out
  • The Saudi Justice Ministry has not responded to requests for comment on the case

(CNN) -- Rights group Amnesty International has condemned a reported Saudi court ruling sentencing a man to be paralyzed as retribution for having paralyzed another man as "outrageous."

In a statement issued Tuesday, the rights group called the punishment "torture," adding that it "should on no account be carried out."

Local media reports about the case surfaced over the weekend.

The Saudi Gazette, an English language daily paper, reported that Ali Al-Khawahir was 14 when he stabbed and paralyzed his best friend 10 years ago.

Al-Khawahir, who has been in prison ever since, has been sentenced to be paralyzed if he cannot come up with one million Saudi Riyals ($266,000) in compensation to be paid to the victim, the newspaper reported.

Saudi women allowed to ride bicycles

CNN cannot independently verify the reports.

"Paralyzing someone as punishment for a crime would be torture," said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa deputy director.

"That such a punishment might be implemented is utterly shocking, even in a context where flogging is frequently imposed as a punishment for some offenses, as happens in Saudi Arabia."

The rights group calls this an example of a "qisas," or retribution, case, adding that "other sentences passed have included eye-gouging, tooth extraction, and death in cases of murder.

"In such cases, the victim can demand the punishment be carried out, request financial compensation or grant a conditional or unconditional pardon."

Despite repeated attempts, the Saudi Justice Ministry could not be reached for comment on the case.

"If implemented, the paralysis sentence would contravene the U.N. Convention against Torture to which Saudi Arabia is a state party and the Principles of Medical Ethics adopted by the UN General Assembly," Amnesty International said.

This is not the first time a "paralysis as punishment" sentence has made headlines in Saudi Arabia.

In 2010, local media reported the case of a 22-year-old man who was paralyzed in a fight, saying he had subsequently requested paralysis as punishment for the man he'd fought with.

After the initial reports, the Saudi Ministry of Justice denied that paralysis had ever been considered as punishment in that case.

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