Last Updated: Tue Nov 02, 2010 12:39 pm (KSA) 09:39 am (GMT)

Saudi religious police acquitted of homicide

Abu al-Harisi's holds up his late son's identity card
Abu al-Harisi's holds up his late son's identity card

The family of a Saudi man who died in the custody of religious police after being apprehended on suspicion of alcohol possession were left un-vindicated Tuesday when an appeals court refused to find the officers guilty of murder.

The Saudi Court of Appeals endorsed a lower court’s verdict acquitting two officers from the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice of homicide in a lawsuit filed by the family of the man who died in detention.

Salam al-Harisi, 28, died last year after being detained by the Commission for alleged alcohol possession.

The coroner's report stated that the cause of death was a severe beating to the head that caused a six centimeter crack in his skull. His right eye was gouged out and he received another severe blow to the head.

Harisi’s family accused the two officers of killing the detained man but an initial court ruling found them not guilty and they were acquitted.

The lawyer for the Harisi family, Abdul-Rahman al-Laham, filed an appeal in June to protest the initial verdict that acquitted the two officers.

The appeal was based on a 1984 anti-torture treaty, to which Saudi Arabia is a signatory. Laham said that Harisi's case should be treated as an incident of torture and thus requires a severe penalty.

The lawyer argued that the treaty should apply to the officers since they committed the offence while at work in their government jobs.

Laham added that article two of the treaty stipulates that every country should take all the necessary judicial and penal measures to prevent torture.

The Appeals court disagreed, reasoning in its verdict that the head is not a fatal body part and that the hand is not a weapon and that therefore the conditions of homicide do not apply.

(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)

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