[ l i z n o t e ]
to HRH King Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud
...Human Rights Watch urges you to immediately halt the execution of Fawza Falih Muhammad Ali, currently imprisoned in Quraiyat Prison. Fawza Falih has exhausted her appeals and her relatives in Jordan believe the papers are currently in your office awaiting your approval of the execution... The court in Quraiyat, on April 2, 2006 (3/3/1427), sentenced her to death by beheading for the alleged crimes of "witchcraft, recourse to jinn [supernatural beings], and slaughter" of animals... significant procedural flaws throughout the trial which effectively eradicated her ability to defend herself against the ill-defined charges against her. We remain convinced that Fawza Falih has not committed any crime at all...
to Execute a Woman for Witchcraft
BEIRUT, Lebanon -- 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.
The most frequent victims are women, who already suffer severe restrictions on daily life in Saudi Arabia: They cannot drive, appear before a judge without a male representative, or travel abroad without a male guardian's permission.
Witchcraft is considered an offense against Islam in the conservative kingdom.
In Falih's case, the judges relied on a coerced confession and on the statements of witnesses who said she had "bewitched" them to convict her in April 2006, according to the group.
Falih later retracted her confession in court, claiming it was extracted under duress, and said that as an illiterate woman, she did not understand the document she was forced to fingerprint.
"The fact that Saudi judges still conduct trials for unprovable crimes like 'witchcraft' underscores their inability to carry out objective criminal investigations," said Joe Stork, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
There was no immediate comment on the statement from Saudi Arabia, where government offices are closed on Thursdays, the start of the Muslim weekend...
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