Washington: The US has condemned a reported Saudi court ruling sentencing a man to be paralysed for an attack which left another man paralysed as "incredibly disturbing".
"If these reports are true, they would be incredibly disturbing," the State Department said in an email statement yesterday in response to a question asked during its daily press briefing.
"We expect the Saudi Government to respect international human rights norms. We regularly make this point as part of our bilateral dialogue," the State Department said.
According to news reports, Ali al-Khawaher, 24, was convicted of stabbing a childhood friend in the spine during a dispute a decade ago.
Under sharia law, courts may set an eye-for-an-eye punishment for crimes but victims may pardon convicts in exchange for so-called blood money.
In this case, the court determined the figure to be USD 266,000, which Ali`s mother told the local media that she was unable to pay even a fraction of it.
The stabbing happened in 2003 and the court order was passed last Saturday. Amnesty International has condemned the punishment. "Paralysing someone as punishment for a crime would be torture," said Amnesty`s Ann Harrison.
"That such a punishment might be implemented is utterly shocking, even in a context where flogging is frequently imposed as a punishment for some offences, as happens in Saudi Arabia.
It is time the authorities in Saudi Arabia start respecting their international legal obligations and remove these terrible punishments from the law," Harrison added.