Monday, February 25, 2008

Save Fawza Falih: write a letter

The address to write to:

HRH King Abdullah bin Abd al-'Aziz Al Saud
Royal Court
Riyadh 11111
Saudi Arabia

Salutation: "Your Royal Highness"

See the letter from Human Rights Watch to King Abdullah.

Main points to include:
  • 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 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.
  • 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. Fawzah Falih was denied all these rights.
  • 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."
Please write to King Abdullah and sign the petition.

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