Saudi court revokes Canadian's death sentence
Published Saturday, January 9, 2010 6:11PM EST
A Canadian on death row in Saudi Arabia will get a new trial and no longer faces an imminent public beheading, according to the Foreign Affairs department.
Mohamed Kohail, now 24, has been held in a Saudi Arabian prison since 2007 after police linked him to a schoolyard brawl that led to the death of another teenage student.
But on Saturday, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said that a 2008 sentence which had ordered Kohail's death has been overturned as Saudi Arabia's supreme court has decided that the case should be tried again.
"Canada is very pleased to confirm that the death sentence against Mohamed Kohail has been revoked and that a retrial has been ordered," Cannon said in a statement.
Kohail's younger brother Sultan is also in Saudi custody over the incident, and his case was recently moved from juvenile court to adult court. The younger Kohail could also face a death sentence if convicted.
However, a Foreign Affairs spokesperson said that Ottawa had yet to resolve the younger Kohail's case.
"This case continues to be a priority for the government," Catherine Loubier said. "Canada continues to provide consular assistance and to pursue all avenues to assist Mohamed and Sultan Kohail."
The brawl, portions of which were captured by grainy video images, was allegedly sparked by an insult to a girl at the school.
Both brothers were attending school in Jidda at the time of the incident. Both have said that they were acting in self-defence during the brawl, which led to the death of 19-year-old Munzer Al-Hiraki.
For the past year, Kohail's case has been locked in the Saudi justice system. First, he was found guilty by a lower Saudi court and sentenced to death. That decision was upheld by an appeal court but had yet to be ruled upon by the top court.
On Saturday, however, the top court issued its decision for a new trial.
Meanwhile, Sultan Kohail has also been languishing in jail as he awaits the outcome of his trial. At first, Sultan's sentence was 200 lashes and a year in prison.
However, that ruling was overturned and the case was shipped to adult court.
While the Canadian government has been criticized by the Kohail family for its handling of the file, Ottawa has maintained that it has been working behind the scenes.
"The government of Canada has repeatedly raised the cases of Sultan and Mohammed Kohail directly with senior Saudi ministers, and this case remains a priority for our government. We will continue to actively monitor this case and provide assistance and support to the Kohail brothers and their family," Cannon's statement said.
Both brothers immigrated from Saudi Arabia to Canada with their family in 2000.
The Kohail family lived in Montreal until 2006, when they returned to Jeddah after a family member became ill.
With files from The Canadian Press