Now its 2008, and staunch U.S. ally Saudi Arabia is about to do it again. Saudi law courts have sentenced Fawza Fahli for "witchcraft, recourse to jinn [supernatural beings], and slaughter of animals." Held in Quraiyat Prison, she is to be beheaded. Arrested in May 2005 by the mutaween (religious police from the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice), her conviction in April 2006 was based on a coerced confession (later retracted), and on the statements of her supposed "bewitched" victims, including a man who claimed she made him impotent.
The Saudi rulers aren't posturing here. In November 2007, they decapitated by sword Egyptian pharmacist Mustafa Ibrahim in Riyadh, found "guilty" of supposedly trying to separate a married couple by use of "sorcery."
Ibrahim had been accused by another foreign resident of using magic to separate him from his wife. The Saudi Press Agency (SPA) then reported that "evidence" had been retrieved from Mustapha Ibrahim's home. This included black magic books, a candle emblazoned with the words "to summon devils" and "foul-smelling herbs". SPA stated that Ibrahim "confessed to adultery with a woman and desecrating the Koran by placing it in the bathroom."An appeals court in Saudi Arabia initially put a stay to Fahli's execution, because she had retracted her confession, but a different court reinstated the death sentence. Human Rights First, which has written a letter to King Abdullah bin Abd al-’Aziz Al Saud calling for a halt Fahli's execution, notes:
The legal basis for this decision includes the statement that witches “are not given the opportunity to repent, because witchcraft is not eradicable by penitence"....The medieval, feudalist rulers of Saudi Arabia are major allies to the U.S. in its purported "war on terror." But the impossibly rich sheiks of that country are steeped in a fundamentalist version of Islam called Wahabism. Awash in dollars and euros, the Saudi royal family has financed madrassas and mosques around the world to spread their form of Islam, which treats women as
...the accused was unable to challenge any of the witnesses against her: the witnesses did not testify in court, but gave written statements, and the judge kept her in the waiting room during sessions when evidence was presented....
Fawza Falih spent 35 days in detention at the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (CPVPV) after her arrest on May 4, 2005 (25/3/1426). Her detention there violated a 1981 royal decree prohibiting the CPVPV from holding and interrogating suspects at their centers. She asserted in her appeal that she was beaten during her interrogation, naming one official of the governorate. Her appeal states that she lost consciousness during one beating and was treated at the hospital. She asserts that fellow female prisoners bandaged her wounds. Human Rights Watch spoke to a relative who was allowed to visit her for the first time after about 20 days in CPVPV detention, following her hospital treatment, and saw marks from beatings on her back. There would thus have been ample evidence to indicate that her confession was coerced.
Paul Moss, who was arrested in December 2000, described how he was treated while in the custody of the interior ministry at a facility in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, where he said he was held in solitary confinement for seven weeks. “I did not have a name: I was just addressed as a number throughout by an interrogator who was obviously well-educated. Every time I was taken from the windowless cell two floors up for interrogation I was blindfolded and shackled.” He told the Guardian that he was deprived of sleep, and beaten on four separate occasions: “They hit me in the testicles with a stick. Then they hit me on the chin each time as I went down.” Moss also alleged that he was intimidated and threatened: “They took me on the roof and said they would throw me off and say I'd been trying to escape. They said they'd done that before. They threatened to plant drugs in my house to get my wife and child beheaded.”The U.S. alliance with Saudi Arabia is based on oil and geopolitical realpolitik. The planned execution of the illiterate Fawza Fahli -- she was forced to place her fingerprint upon her "confession," a confession she could not even read -- is the fruit of the deeply cynical and selfish foreign policy of the United States, which props up the most degenerate and reactionary regimes if it serves U.S. "interests."
The American people must condemn this sick policy, and force its leaders to break with the decades-long policy of support to anti-democratic, anti-women, totalitarian regimes, of both the religious and the secular varieties (like Egypt). The embrace of Wahabi fundamentalism proves the lie behind Bush's stance of promoting "democracy" in the Middle East.
I leave it to my readers to decide what it means in 2008 that to save an innocent woman's life one must write to a King. If you do write to HRH King Abdullah bin Abd al-’Aziz Al Saud, at Royal Court, Riyadh 11111, Saudi Arabia, please be polite and save your political points for elsewhere. Ask for justice and mercy.
Later, as you reflect upon the state of our world, pray to whatever god you like for the same upon all of us. Upon one innocent woman's head lies the destiny of us all.