Letter: My Saudi trial for murder

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The Independent Online
The Saudi Arabian ambassador's assertion that the nurses would have ample opportunity to defend themselves is of great interest to me ("Saudi envoy slams `trial by press'", 29 December). Before our trial in Taif, Saudi Arabia, on murder charges in 1988 we were told the same thing. We were also told we could call witnesses, and that our lawyer would act on our behalf. None of these things happened.

On our first day in court (6 February 1988) our lawyer was told by the Judge he could act not as a lawyer, but as interpreter, and was instructed to sit at the back. But his interpreting skills were not required as the court already had two interpreters.

On our second day he was not allowed into the courtroom and was not present at all on day three. My request to give my defence was refused. The question of calling witnesses never arose, and when we retracted our statements we did not get a new trial, as permitted in Sharia law. According to that same law documents alone cannot be used to establish the truth of a charge of a criminal act. In our case no other evidence was produced.

Our sentences were handed down in the prison one year later, by prison police, and there were no judges present. In Sharia law, if the defendant is dissatisfied with the outcome, he has between 10 and 15 days in which to appeal. This was not available to us. Peter Hall and I were released six weeks later without vindication. I sincerely hope Ms McLauchlan and Ms Parry get a fair trial.

Monica Hall

Dublin, Ireland