Published November 17, 2014
CAIRO (AP) — A Saudi judge has asked several hospitals in the country whether they could damage a man's spinal cord as punishment after he was convicted of attacking another man with a cleaver and paralyzing him, local newspapers reported on Thursday.
Saudi Arabia enforces strict Islamic law and occasionally metes out punishments based on the ancient legal code of an eye-for-an-eye.
The reports said Abdul-Aziz al-Mutairi, 22, was left paralyzed after a fight more than two years ago and asked a judge to impose an equivalent punishment on his attacker under Islamic law.
The newspaper Okaz said the judge in northwestern Tabuk province, identified as Saoud bin Suleiman al-Youssef, asked at least two hospitals for a medical opinion on whether surgeons could render the attacker's spinal cord nonfunctional. The attacker, who was not identified in the reports, has spent seven months in jail.
The reports cited the letter of response from one of the hospitals and the victim al-Mutairi.
Two of the hospitals involved and the court were closed for the Saudi weekend beginning Thursday and could not be reached for comment.
Okaz reported that a leading hospital in Riyadh - King Faisal Specialist Hospital - responded that it could not do the operation. It quoted a letter from the hospital saying "inflicting such harm is not possible," apparently refusing on ethical grounds.
The papers did not carry any response from a second hospital that reportedly received the request, King Khaled Hospital in Tabuk province.
The story was also carried by Saudi English-language paper Arab News.
Islamic law applied in Saudi Arabia allows defendants to ask for a similar punishment for harms inflicted on them. Cutting off the hands of thieves, for example, is common.
Under the law, the victim can receive a blood money to settle the case.
Human rights group say trials in Saudi Arabia fall far below international standards. They usually take place behind closed doors and without adequate legal representation.
Those who are sentenced to death are often not informed of the progress of legal proceedings against them or of the date of execution until the morning on which they are taken out and beheaded.
Crucifying the headless body in a public place is a way to set an example, according to the kingdom's strict interpretation of Islam.
Saudi King Abdullah has been trying to clamp down on extremist ideology, including unauthorized clerics issuing odd religious decrees.