UK, others blast Saudi ruling to paralyse young criminal

The United Kingdom today urged Saudi Arabia not to go ahead with deliberately paralysing of a man for a crime committed 10 years ago.

Ali al-Khawaher, 24, stabbed a man in the spine, paralysing the victim, when he was just 14. He is said to have spent 10 years in jail waiting to be surgically paralysed unless his family pays 1 million Saudi riyals (£176,000) to the victim for an attack that left another man paralysed. The sentence was said to be an implementation of Islamic law.

Speaking to a British TV channel, Princess Basmah Bint Saud of the Saudi royal family condemned the sentence, which Amnesty International has compared to torture.

She said, "Whether it be Christianity, Islam or other religions we have misunderstood the core of humanity itself. It is all about being human even in our punishments."

Khawaher stabbed a friend in the spine during a dispute, paralysing him from the waist down. Saudi Arabia applies Islamic sharia law, which allows eye-for-an-eye punishment for crimes but allows victims to pardon convicts in exchange for so-called blood money.

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