Our Friends the Saudis
Our medieval pals are about to execute a woman for witchcraft.
A leading human rights group appealed to Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah on Thursday to stop the execution of a woman accused of witchcraft and performing supernatural acts.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a statement that the kingdom’s 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 in the face of “absurd charges that have no basis in law.”
Falih’s case underscores shortcomings in Saudi Arabia’s Islamic legal system in which rules of evidence are shaky, lawyers are not always present and sentences often depend on the whim of judges.
Gotta love the wire services. “Shortcomings.”
The woman was convicted of using jinns to do her nefarious work, and the religious police of our friends the Saudis beat her badly enough to put her in the hospital.
Falih had “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”, said HRW.
“At one point, she had to be hospitalised as a result of beatings” at the hands of the religious police, called the “mutaween” in the ultra-conservative Sunni Muslim kingdom, it said.
HRW said: “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’.”
HRW said that an appeals court had ruled Falih could not be sentenced to death for “witchcraft” as a crime against God because she had retracted her confession.
She had been condemned to death in April 2006 for “witchcraft, recourse to jinn (supernatural beings), and slaughter” of animals, it said. But 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’”, it said.