Prince could face death penalty in Saudi Arabia

Friday 15 October 2010 15:20

A Saudi prince accused of murdering his servant could face the death penalty in his home country over his alleged gay sex life, a court heard today.

Homosexuality is illegal under Saudi Arabia's sharia law code, an Old Bailey jury trying Saud Abdulaziz bin Nasser al Saud was told.

At times the families of defendants in such cases have pushed for the most severe penalty because of the perceived shame, the court heard.

Saud, 34, is accused of killing 32-year-old Bandar Abdulaziz during a ferocious attack with a "sexual element" in February.

Two male escorts are alleged to have performed sex acts on the prince at the Landmark hotel in central London where he and Mr Abdulaziz were staying.

John Kelsey-Fry QC, defending, has denied suggestions that the two men were in a gay relationship.

Bobbie Cheema, prosecuting, said: "Homosexuality is illegal in Saudi Arabia and carries the death penalty which is still applied in some cases.

"The country in which any alleged acts took place would have little bearing on the likelihood of prosecution as the Saudi legal system is based on the sharia law which is considered to be universal.

"Whether the defendant would be prosecuted is a matter for the Saudi authorities but would to some extent depend on the wishes of his family.

"There have been cases where the family have pushed for the most severe penalty, particularly where the individual is thought to have brought shame on the family.

"The defendant could be at risk from members of his own family who may feel that he has brought shame on the family.

"He could also be at risk from members of the victim's family, although as he is a member of the Saudi royal family this risk would be reduced.

"Saudi Arabian nationals have in the past applied for and been granted asylum in the United Kingdom on the basis that they are homosexual and would be at risk of prosecution - and potentially the death penalty - or harm if they returned to Saudi Arabia."

Mr Kelsey-Fry said the Saudi law as described in the admissions to the court read out by Miss Cheema would only apply "if it were the case that the defendant had engaged in homosexuality".

Saud denies murder and a second charge if grievous bodily harm with intent in relation to an earlier alleged assault in a hotel lift.

Mr Kelsey-Fry told the court he would not be calling the prince or any other witnesses to give evidence.

The judge, Mr Justice Bean, sent the jury away until Monday when he said there would be a closing speech by prosecutor Jonathan Laidlaw QC.

He said there would then be a speech by Mr Kelsey-Fry for the defence followed by the judge's summing up.

Jurors were told they would probably be sent out to consider their verdicts on Tuesday.

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