Saudi judge asks hospital to paralyse criminal

A Saudi judge has asked several hospitals in the country whether they could damage a man's spinal cord as punishment after he was convicted of attacking another man with a cleaver, leaving the victim paralysed.

Saudi Arabia enforces strict Islamic law and occasionally metes out punishments based on the ancient code of an eye-for-an-eye. However, Saudi King Abdullah has been trying to clamp down on extremist ideology.

The reports said Abdul-Aziz al-Mutairi, 22, was left paralysed after a fight more than two years ago and asked a judge to impose an equivalent punishment on his attacker under Islamic law.

The newspaper Okaz said the judge in northwestern Tabuk province, identified as Saoud bin Suleiman al-Youssef, asked at least two hospitals for a medical opinion on whether surgeons could render the attacker's spinal cord nonfunctional. The attacker, who was not identified in the reports, has spent seven months in jail.

Okaz reported that a leading hospital in Riyadh – King Faisal Specialist Hospital – responded that it could not do the operation. It quoted a letter from the hospital saying "inflicting such harm is not possible," apparently refusing on ethical grounds. The response of a second hospital is not on public record.

Amnesty International expressed concerns over the reports and said it was contacting Saudi authorities for details of the case.