Letter: Democracy and Saudi law

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The Independent Online
From Mr Stephen Jakobi

Sir: I have read the articles by Robert Fisk [about judicial punishments in the Gulf states] with horror but some of the correspondence that has followed (Letters, 11 October) appears to me to be at variance with the facts.

Gavin Sherrard Smith was flogged in secret by relays of police officers on 3 May 1994. Buried in the transcript of the Qatar court that ordered his flogging is the following curious judicial comment

reprimand offences under religious jurisprudence are not required to be proven in the same way as the crimes that require the imposition of penalties and reprisals.

Religious courts in Qatar and, one suspects, elsewhere in the Moslem world, are therefore not required to conform to the requirements of the state criminal law.

The last religious courts in Europe that had power to order imprisonment and beatings without regard to state laws was the Spanish inquisition over 150 years ago. The learned arguments on Shia law are surely beside the point in circumstances such as these.

Yours faithfully,

Stephen Jakobi

Fair Trials Abroad Trust

Richmond, Surrey

11 October

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