02/15/2008, 00.00
SAUDI ARABIA
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Death to a witch in Quraiyat

Charged for witchcraft in 2005 Fawza Falih is sentenced to death. Human Rights Watch writes to Saudi King Abdullah asking him to stop absurd execution.

Quraiyat (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Witch hunting is not a thing of the past, at least not in Saudi Arabia. A court in the oil-rich kingdom handed down a death sentence against Fawza Falih, a woman accused of witchcraft, stunning NGO Human Rights Watch which has reacted by appealing to Saudi King Abdullah to stop the execution.

The illiterate woman was detained by religious police in 2005 for allegedly causing impotence in one of her accusers.

Ms Falih said that she was beaten and forced to fingerprint a confession that she could not understand because she cannot read.

Saudi Arabia does not have a written criminal code and witchcraft is not defined as a crime. Yet the Saudi court in charge of the case passed a death sentence exercising its own discretionary powers to protect the nation’s principles, soul and identity.

For Joe Stork, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, this case underscores Saudi judges’ inability to carry out objective criminal investigations.

“Fawza Falih’s case is an example of how the authorities failed to comply even with existing safeguards in the Saudi justice system,” he added.

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