JEDDAH, 19 May 2005 — Deputy Interior Minister Prince Ahmed yesterday rejected allegations made by three Britons that they had been tortured at a Riyadh jail and said they should have been thankful for receiving pardon for the crimes they had committed.
“They have never been tortured. They had lawyers and the representatives of their embassies used to visit them and their families. If there were anything of that sort, their countries would have protested and it never happened,” the prince said when asked about the torture allegation.
“The Shariah court had issued a strong verdict against them as they deserved it for their crimes,” he pointed out.
Prince Ahmed said the Kingdom was not officially informed about the move by Bindman and Partners, a London-based law firm, which represents Britons Sandy Mitchell, Les Walker and William Sampson, to seize the Kingdom’s assets in Britain to pay for overdue legal costs.
For the record, I've had several email conversations with William Sampson, one of the victims. It was only by sheer dent of diplomatic power that these men were freed. They were tortured and it came out in their trial. I do mean in the sense of being tortured as most normal people understand it: hung by their wrists or ankles, beaten and a number of ther details found here.
Arab News did get one detail wrong, Sampson has dual citizenship with Britain and Canada.
You may wonder what he was charged with:
The men were held in Saudi jails for more than two years and confessed, allegedly after torture, to plotting a series of bomb attacks in Riyadh in 2000 and 2001. Saudi authorities described the bombings, in which one Briton was killed, as part of a turf war between Western gangs supplying illegal liquor to expatriates.
Saudi Arabia has very strict laws about liquor and drugs. The crime of smuggling or making what amounts to "moonshine" Saudi style can get you beheaded if you're a non-citizen and some very serious prison time and physical punishment if you are a citizen.
And what was he doing there:
Sampson had been working as an employee of a Saudi agency that provides loans to industrial ventures.
Now, does this sound like someone who was engaging in "gang turf wars" to you?
If you are vaguely familiar with the time line of these charges, the dates and places of the attacks, you might find them to be oddly familiar as they are the same places that were attacked by terrorists in the intravening years, killing many westerners and prompting the US to withdraw family members of diplomats and encouraged Americans living in western compounds to leave.
In short, this was an early attempt by the Saudi government to cover up to the citizens of KSA and the world that they had just had the whirl wind they had created return to them.
Of course, in a country that barely admits they have some "issues" with extremists, it is not unusual to find they are not owning up to the torture of these men.
The Canadian government continues to be complicit in this situation, insisting that they never saw signs of torture and was not told by Sampson that he was tortured or beaten, even when expressly and pointedly asked.
It reminds me of the stories of Viet Nam veterans being interviewed by French and other press, or, more notoriously, Hanoi Jane and, despite their condition, telling them that they were fine and treated well because they knew if they didn't they would just get more beatings and worse torture.
Heads in the sand and quite possibly willfully complict in the treatment of their own citizen.
For the story of William Sampson in his own words, go here.