Yemeni who insulted Islam to lose his head

Monday, February 3, 2003

Saudi Arabia has sentenced a Yemeni national to death after he refused to wake up for prayers and denounced Islam and the Saudi religious police.

A Saudi court in Jedda sentenced the Yemeni national to death on Jan. 7.

Saudi newspapers said Hail Al Masri was originally sentenced to two years imprisonment and 600 lashes. But a higher court headed by Ali Al Zahrani rejected the sentence and ruled that Al Masri should be beheaded.

The reports said Al Masri tried to jump from the third floor where the courtroom was located after the death sentence was read. Al Masri was seriously injured in the fall and taken to a local hospital.

Al Masri was charged with refusing the appeals of his roommate to wake up for early morning prayers. When the roommate insisted, Al Masri began cursing him, Islam and Saudi religious police.

The roommate complained to authorities and Al Masri was arrested. Other university students testified that Al Masri also slapped his roommate.

The Washington-based Saudi Institute said Saudi Arabia has not formally announced the death sentence. The opposition group said a Saudi reporter who covered the court proceedings refused to speak with the institute in fear of government reprisal.

The institute called on the United States to pressure Saudi Arabia to commute Al Masri's death sentence. The group urged for appeals to be sent to former President Jimmy Carter, winner of Noble Prize and a friend of Saudi King Fahd.

The appeal came as Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz began a dialogue with intellectuals over the prospect of democratic reforms. They included a proposal to elect the current Shura Council, which examines domestic issues and issues recommendations for legislation.

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