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Rights group protests Saudi prisoner's sentence

December 10, 2005 12:03 IST

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah should take urgent steps to ensure that a court sentence to gouge out an Indian worker's eye is not carried out, Human Rights Watch said Saturday.

"This literal eye-for-an-eye sentence is torture masquerading as justice," Joe Stork, deputy director of the rights watchdog's Middle East division said referring to the plight of 34-year-old Puthan Veettil Naushad, hailing from Kerala.

A Sharia court of Dammam had ordered that Naushad's right eye be gouged out in retribution for his role in a brawl in April 2003 in which a Saudi citizen lost his eye.

"King Abdullah must prevent the imposition of corporal punishment in violation of the country's obligations under international law," Stork said.

Saudi Arabia acceded to the Convention against Torture in 1997. However, Naushad's case is the third known instance over the past year in which a Saudi court has issued a sentence of eye-gouging, the New York-based human rights watchdog said.

During the trial, Naushad claimed he was acting in self-defence and did not intend to injure the Saudi. A witness, also a worker from India, told Human Rights Watch that the court refused to admit his testimony backing up Naushad's account.

The judge reportedly said that non-Saudis were barred from testifying in cases involving Saudis.

"The court's verdict virtually allows Saudi citizens to assault migrant workers with impunity," Stork said. The news of the verdict has caused an uproar in India. The Indian embassy in Riyadh has announced it will appeal to King Abdullah for clemency.

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