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Canadian and Jordanian risk death sentences in Saudi Arabia

    July 25, 2012

    Canadian national Mohamed Kohail and Jordanian national Mehanna Sa’d face having their death sentences reinstated if they do not pay financial compensation within six months to the family of a Syrian boy whom they are accused of murdering.

    “This latest development brings heightened urgency to this case and we are repeating our appeal to Saudi authorities to not seek or impose the death penalty against either man,” said Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada (English branch).  “For more than five years a Canadian citizen has faced the terrifying prospect of execution in Saudi Arabia.  As Mohamed Kohail’s situation once again grows more worrying it is crucial that the Canadian government take action at the very highest levels of government.”

    On 3 June, the General Court in Jeddah issued a diya (financial compensation) agreement demanding Mohamed Kohail and Mehanna Sa’d pay compensation of five million Saudi Arabian riyals (approximately US$1.4 million) to the family of a boy whom the pair are accused of killing in 2007. The compensation must be paid within six months or the death sentences against Mohamed Kohail and Mehanna Sa’d could be reinstated.

    Mohamed Kohail and Mehanna Sa’d were charged in early 2007 with the murder of a Syrian boy, who died in a schoolyard brawl in January 2007. They were sentenced to death by the Jeddah General Court in March 2008 after a trial which did not conform to international fair trial standards. They were reportedly held incommunicado for approximately a month and a half after their arrests and beaten in an attempt to make them confess. Their lawyer was only allowed to attend two court sessions during the men’s trial and was not allowed to challenge the evidence brought against his clients.

    In November 2008, the Court of Cassation confirmed the men's death sentences and then referred the sentences to the Supreme Judicial Council for approval. In February 2009, the Supreme Judicial Council sent the case back to the Jeddah General Court, for review. In April 2009, this court upheld their death sentences, which subsequently came before the recently created Supreme Court. In January 2010 the Supreme Court was said to have revoked their death sentences and sent their case back to the Jeddah General Court for another review. On 3 June 2012, the court issued the diya agreement following negotiations with the victim’s family. Under Saudi Arabian law, in some murder cases, the victim's relatives have the power to seek execution, request diya (compensation) or grant a pardon freely.

    Confirmed executions in Saudi Arabia grew by 300 per cent in 2011, with at least 82 people executed, compared to 27 in 2010.  Saudi Arabia previously had been one of the few countries who had decreased the number of death sentences.

    “Against a backdrop of growing numbers of executions, and the secrecy of the Saudi criminal justice system, the Canadian government must pull out all the stops,” said Béatrice Vaugrante, Director General of Amnesty International Canada’s francophone branch.  “These death sentences simply cannot be reinstated.”

    Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. The death penalty violates the right to life and is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

                                                              
     

    Beth Berton-Hunter,
    Media Relations,
    Amnesty International Canada
    416-363-9933, ext. 332

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