Ottawa 'concerned' about Canadian's facing executions in Saudi Arabia

Canada’s top diplomat said yesterday he fears two Canadian brothers (one 16 year old) who face beheading in Saudi Arabia for a murder they insist they did not commit may have been mistreated by Saudi authorities.

“We are very concerned about allegations of mistreatment (in Saudi Arabia),” Foreign Minister Peter MacKay said in the House of Commons. “We have made representations to the Saudi government about our concern for their well-being and we will continue to do so,” he said. “As well, we have in the past expressed our concerns (to the Saudis) about allegations of torture.”

“Consular officials of the Canadian Embassy in Riyadh are following this case by maintaining contact with local authorities,” who are visiting the two men, Foreign Affairs spokesman Rodney Moore told the Canadian Press on Wednesday.

“While Saudi Arabia repeatedly states that they are vehemently against the torture of accused individuals, allegations have been made of abuse and coercion,” McKay said. “Our officials should therefore request an immediate medical examination of Sultan and Mohamed Kohail.”

Bryon Wilfert, Canadian Member of Parliament asked the Minister of Foreign Affairs if any Canadian officials have visited these two brothers, what condition are they in and what is being done to ensure that these Canadian citizens receive due process. The Minister indicated that there have been four visits now with the boys in Saudi Arabia and they are very concerned about allegations of mistreatment there. He did not indicate the condition of the boys. “This is a very time sensitive issue and I urge the Minister of Foreign Affairs to monitor the treatment of the boys and ensure that they receive proper treatment,” said Wilfert.

Mohamed Kohail, 22, of Palestinian heritage and his 16-year-old brother Sultan are accused of killing a Syrian youth in a vicious schoolyard brawl in Jeddah. 

The brothers, both Canadian citizens of Palestinian extraction, lived in Montreal for five years before moving back to Saudi Arabia, where they were born and raised, to be closer to an ill relative. A Montreal teacher who knew Mohamed Kohail said school staff were shocked and distraught at the news that their former charge is now in prison. The report “doesn’t really match anything that we know about Mohamed,” guidance counsellor Barry Gaiptman said. “We had never seen any indication of an aggressive side,” said Gaiptman, who works at Place Cartier Adult Education Centre in Beaconsfield, where Mohamed attended class. “On the contrary, I found him to be polite and a straight-up guy.” For more information visit our posts on June 3 and June 4, 2007.        

Foreign Minister McKay with Nazanin Afshin-Jam discussing human rights in April 2007.