Saudi Arabia’s justice ministry has denied reports that a judge sentenced a young man to be surgically paralysed in retribution for stabbing a friend who was left unable to move.
The case was originally reported in local media and prompted outrage from governments and human rights groups around the world, bringing renewed scrutiny to an Islamic legal system that has no sentencing guidelines or system of precedent in determining punishments.
On the ministry’s official Twitter feed, it stated: “The ministry would like to announce that this is utterly incorrect, and in fact the judicial ruling was contrary to that. The judge had shied away from demanding this punishment.”
However, the ministry did not reveal what the man’s sentence had in fact been.
The Saudi Gazette reported last month the man had been ordered to pay the equivalent of about £176,000 or be paralysed for a crime he had committed ten years earlier, when he was just 14 years old.
He had reportedly stabbed a school friend, who was paralysed as a result.
Human rights group Amnesty International described the reported sentence as “torture”.
The kingdom’s sharia justice system gives judges extensive leeway to reach verdicts and award sentences based on their own interpretation of the law. Capital punishment is common, and can be applied for crimes ranging from murder and armed robbery to drug smuggling and witchcraft.
King Abdullah ordered sweeping judicial reforms in 2007, including setting up specialist courts to handle criminal, financial, family and other cases, and retraining for judges.
However, the reforms have moved slowly in the face of what Saudi political scientists and some justice ministry officials describe as bitter opposition from conservatives.