AN AMERICAN civil liberties group has written an open letter to the King of Saudi Arabia, urging him to pardon a woman sentenced to death for witchcraft under Sharia law.
Fawza Falih was condemned to death by a court in the town of Quraiyat after confessing under interrogation to having used sorcery to bewitch people. Witchcraft is not a crime under the Saudi penal code, however Sharia, or Muslim religious law, forbids its practice.
“The fact that Saudi judges still conduct trials for unprovable crimes like ‘witchcraft’ underscores their inability to carry out objective criminal investigations,” the Middle East Director of the New York based NGO, Human Rights Watch, Joe Stork said on Feb 14.
“Fawza Falih’s case is an example of how the authorities failed to comply even with existing safeguards in the Saudi justice system.”
Human Rights Watch has urged King Abdullah to pardon Falih, arguing that her confession was coerced, the legal proceedings flawed, and the ‘crime’ not one recognized under law.
Saudi Arabia’s religious police, the Muttawa, arrested Falih in 2006, and after 35 days’ detention and interrogation, she signed a statement confessing to having been a witch. However, at trial Falih repudiated her confession, saying it had been extracted under torture. Human Rights Watch also charged the Saudi woman’s trial was flawed, alleging misconduct on the part of the judge and prosecutor.