Briton loses fight to sue Saudis for 'torture'

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The Independent Online

A British businessman who claims he was tortured into confessing to a bombing in Riyadh was denied the right to sue the Saudi government for £2.5m in compensation by the High Court yesterday.

A senior High Court official ruled that the Saudi authorities and an alleged torturer, Lt Col Abdul Aziz, had state immunity despite claims that Ron Jones, 50, was repeatedly beaten before making a confession after 67 days in captivity.

Mr Jones, who was in court with his wife, Sandra, to hear the decision, will now take his case to the Court of Appeal. "There's a possibility that we will lose our house as I have spent every penny I have to take this case to court. But I am not giving in to the Saudis again," he said.

Mr Jones was injured in 2001 when a bomb planted in a dustbin exploded outside a bookshop in the Saudi capital.

While he was recovering in hospital, he claims he was seized from his hospital bed by Saudi agents, taken to a detention centre and tortured into confessing that he had planted the bomb that injured him. The tax adviser from Crawley, West Sussex, said his hands and feet were caned and beaten with a pickaxe handle, his wrists were tied to a window catch above his head and he was deprived of sleep.

His High Court writ, which cites the Saudi Interior Ministry and an official, claims false imprisonment, torture and violations of his human rights. A doctor who examined him on his return to Britain said the evidence of torture was compelling.

Mr Jones is on income support, is unable to work and still suffers the psychological and physicaleffects of his detention. He also faces having to pay the Saudis £15,000 in legal expenses. He said the Foreign Office gave him no help in his claim and even charged him £210 to send documents to Saudi Arabia.

Mr Jones went to Riyadh in November 2000 to work for a Saudi-owned accountancy firm, amid a rise in bombings against Westerners. Six Britons are still being held in the kingdom for other bombings, which some suspect was the responsibility of groups politically opposed to the House of Saud.

Mr Jones wore a red carnation buttonhole yesterday, sent by Mary Martini, the former wife of another Briton being held in Saudi Arabia. Jim Cottle, from Manchester, was sentenced to 18 years in jail after being convicted of a series of bombings two years ago.

Ms Martini said: "It seems like the Saudis are untouchable ... No one wants to oppose or upset them."

Master Whitaker, the High Court official, ruled the Saudis were not liable for civil claims under the State of Immunity Act 1978. Mr Jones said: "I still feel that the Saudis have more protection under English law than I have."