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Concordia student faces imminent death sentence

by Archives March 25, 2008

Time is running out for Concordia student Mohamed Kohail facing the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, and his friends are making a desperate appeal for clemency.
Speaking above the clanging of church bells inside the Parliament Building on Easter Sunday, Montreal radio journalist Mahmoud Al-Ken told the gathering of 50 that the trial bypassed what most countries regard as due process.
“They did not take the circumstances into consideration, they did not take witnesses into consideration and even the video evidence was not taken into consideration in court,” he said of the proceedings.
“[What] we are facing here is a serious flaw in the legal procedures in this case, if there are legal procedures,” said Al-Ken.
Kohail has until Saturday for a last appeal, one which his supporters hope would be bolstered by pressure exerted by the Canadian government. If it were to fail, supporters estimate that Kohail has four to six weeks before a public execution which, under Koran-based Shariah Law, will consist of a public beheading by sword. Kohail’s brother Sultan, as well as his friend Muhanna Masoud, a Jordanian national, are both expected to face the same fate.
The circumstances in which the three young men have found themselves resulted from the tragic outcome of a schoolyard fight, where a young man died from his injuries.
According to Al-Ken and Amnesty International representative Aubrey Harris, there are two versions of how the victim died: blunt-force trauma to the head, from repeated blows with a rock held by his assailant, or that his bladder was severely damaged by a blow, complicated by an existing heart condition.
Both speakers maintain the latter was in fact the autopsy’s findings, which were ignored by the Saudi judge presiding over the trial.
Kohail’s friends believe it was nothing more than a tragic accident.
“Mohamed [Kohail] is now facing the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, for an unintentional act which led to an unfortunate death. [It] could have happened to anyone and anywhere around the world,” said Kohail’s best friend, Mahmoud Younis.
“He was full of love, and life. Shining, and optimistic. He had a great sense of humour, and could always make us laugh. Even in the darkest moments, no matter how depressed you felt,” he said of Kohail.
“[Before this happened] when he was in Saudi Arabia, when we spoke together, he had 20 more days, [he said] he couldn’t wait to get back to Canada where he felt free and secure. Mohamed Kohail was stateless: he was a Palestinian. He had no place to call home . . . he wasn’t sure about his future. I remember how happy [he] was when he got his Canadian citizenship . . . he felt that God has given him this great gift,” said Younis.
“We want Canada to intervene in this case and to ask the Saudi government to give him a fair trial according to international laws,” said one of his high school friends, Golmehr Attaran, who helped coordinate the trek for attendees from Montreal on Sunday.
“All of his friends are very involved . . . We are asking every Canadian ‘what would you do if you faced capital punishment and what do you expect from Canada?'” said Pamela Eid, a high school classmate of Kohail’s.
An anonymous source added even more poignancy to the plight of the Kohails. According to the man, whose sister has friends who attend the Saudi school where the incident took place, it was Sultan who may have caused the fatal blow. In order to protect his younger brother, Mohamed admitted to the crime.
The man, who lives in Saudi Arabia, refused to give his identity fearing there could be repercussions against him if he appeared in the media. He explained this was the reason why he stood away from the crowd, and wore a scarf to cover his face.
“There could be a political factor in the proceeding . . . [Mohamed’s] Canadian citizenship played against him,” said Al-Ken, who said there is public outrage over the incident, partly fuelled by inaccurate reporting by the Saudi media.
“They saw it coming, because of the way the judges were talking to him . . . they said ‘don’t believe that just because you’re a Canadian, you can’t escape it,'” said Al-Ken.
According to Harris, the Saudi government has granted only one pardon out of every 48 foreign nationals given a death sentence.

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