Sunday, February 04, 2007

Saudi Barbaria's Perverted Version of Justice

An alleged quip about the Prophet's penis led to torture and 13-years in jail in Saudi Arabia.

by Brian Whitaker

Hadi Saeed al-Mutif grew up in the countryside in southern Saudi Arabia and at the age of 18 started training to become a policeman. Two months into his training, Hadi had gathered with other recruits for afternoon prayers, as required by the rules. "Let us pray upon the Prophet .." the Imam said - at which point Hadi allegedly quipped: "... and upon his penis".

A couple of his fellow recruits reported Hadi to the authorities at the training centre and he was ordered to stand under the Saudi flag for two hours as a punishment.

That might have been the end of the matter, except that a military inspector happened to be visiting at the time. Instead, this silly incident set in motion a train of events which is still continuing after almost 13 years, involving every level of Saudi Arabia's Byzantine justice system and even reaching the ears of the king.

Throughout this process, one factor that seems to be constantly relevant is that Hadi comes from Najran - an ethnically and culturally different part of the kingdom - and is a Shia Muslim from the Ismaili branch, which many in the Saudi religious and legal establishment regard as heretical.

Hadi denies using the words he is alleged to have uttered, but the quip about the Prophet's penis is not totally unheard of, at least in some circles. I have been unable to find out much about its origin and usage, but it seems to be something that laddish types say to make their mates snigger at an inappropriate moment - a bit like the occasionally irreverent antics of choirboys in Christian churches.

At least two other cases of people getting into trouble for using exactly the same phrase have been documented in Saudi Arabia. In one case a high school student (also Ismaili) was reported by his teacher and received a 14-year jail sentence with 4,000 lashes.

From the training centre, Hadi was taken to the local police station where the officers scratched their heads over what to do about him. After detaining him for 13 days, they unburdened themselves by handing him over to the Mabahith, the kingdom's domestic intelligence service.

During his 25 days in the custody of the Mabahith, according to Hadi's account, he was tortured with beatings and sleep deprivation. Finally, a judge arrived and ordered him to sign a confession - which he refused to do.

He then spent a year in military detention awaiting trial. After hearing two or three witnesses and holding six court sessions, the judge decided Hadi was guilty and sentenced him to death.

Two appeals followed - one to a court in Mecca and another to the Supreme Judicial Council. Both were rejected, and in both cases the judges' views on the religious inadequacy of Ismaili Muslims seem to have been a major factor.

In a final bid to save his life, Hadi's family made an appeal for mercy to the acting monarch at the time, Crown Prince Abdullah, who ordered a special committee to look into the case.

In fact, three committees became involved: a judicial committee, an administrative committee and a forensic committee.

For the purposes of the forensic committee, Hadi spent six months in a psychiatric facility in Ta'if, where he says they took pity on him. They concluded that he was suffering from depression and psychosis and had not been responsible for his actions at the time of the alleged incident. This was attributed to an earlier traumatic experience when he witnessed the gruesome death of his grandmother - accidentally chopped up by a haymaking machine.

The judicial committee, however, over-ruled the forensic committee and decided that Hadi should be punished in a way that would set an example for others.

Crown Prince Abdullah has since become king and six months ago Hadi's father, together with a local sheikh from Najran, managed to secure an audience with him. The king expressed a desire to find a solution; some say he commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment - though no one seems entirely sure.

Hadi is now 31. Thirteen years after allegedly making a stupid remark he is still in jail, with his future unresolved.


murtad girl said...

I have never thought having Saudi Arabia as one of the country I want to visit as a tourist. It will remain the same after reading this blog. Hope this "hadi" will find peace in his soul.


gladtobefree said...

Thank heavens we left such barbarity behind, a few hundred years ago.
There lies a pool of darkness in the soul of Man, and in that darkness no hope can exist.

dragan said...

d said...
Amid signals that Tripoli will not execute five Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian doctor sentenced to death in a controversial HIV case, a top al-Qaeda militant blasted the country's leadership Thursday for softening their stance.