Hardline judges hit out at Saudi reformers
Saudi Arabian judges who enforce sharia law have condemned “the stench of Western ideas” in sweeping legal reforms pushed by King Abdullah, underscoring friction between government modernisers and religious hardliners.
In a letter to justice minister Mohammed al-Issa, eight judges complained about foreign judicial trainers who shave their beards, the minister’s meetings with diplomats of “infidel” states and plans to let women practise as lawyers.
Saudi lawyers and political analysts say the judicial reforms announced by King Abdullah in 2007 and supported by Mr Issa are needed to make the legal system more efficient and modern.
Since becoming de facto regent while he was crown prince in 1995, King Abdullah has pursued cautious reforms aimed at modernising Saudi Arabia’s economy and making it more socially open, but he has often been blocked by powerful religious conservatives.
The world’s top oil exporter has no written legal code or system of precedent, and judges determine cases based on their own interpretation of sharia. Lawyers say this means similar cases often yield starkly different verdicts and sentences.
King Abdullah has stepped in to annul some decisions seen as embarrassing to the country, such as the 2007 jailing of a rape victim on charges of consorting with men not related to her.
However, the reforms have made scant progress five years after being announced.
A ministry source said: “I think the majority of judges are in favour. They want to see development both as professionals and for society.
“But there’s another 30 per cent. They fight [Mr Issa] day and night, trying to slow down what he is doing.”
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Thursday 20 June 2013
Temperature: 12 C to 21 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: South east
Temperature: 11 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 12 mph
Wind direction: West