Do Middle East Legal Systems Fail to Provide a Fair Trial?; Court Cases

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), April 29, 2002 | Go to article overview

Do Middle East Legal Systems Fail to Provide a Fair Trial?; Court Cases


Byline: TOBY MASON

Two high-profile Middle East court cases involving Welsh defendants have focused attention on the way trials are conducted abroad.

Q: What is the background to the cases?

A: Katherine Jenkins, 31, from Neath, spent 17 months in custody in the United Arab Emirates accused of possessing cocaine. She was twice cleared, but the interminable legal process, where the prosecution was allowed to appeal against the verdict, thus prolonging her ordeal, has been widely criticised. She was finally cleared yesterday after that appeal was dismissed.

Jason Lee, from Cardiff, along with a number of other defendants, stands accused of a bombing campaign in Saudi Arabia. There are confused reports coming out of the country, with some claiming he has been sentenced to 18 years in jail in a "secret" trial, and others suggesting that no such sentence has been passed.

Q: So what are the main criticisms?

A: The Saudi legal system is very different to Western ones. It is based on Islamic law, although several secular codes have been introduced.

The practices employed in the legal system have been heavily criticised.

A report by Human Rights Watch in 1997 concluded that "the legal system of Saudi Arabia fails to provide basic fair trial guarantees".

The report continues, "Saudi Arabia's practice of unlimited pre-trial detention and its acceptance of uncorroborated confessions as evidence, encourage the use of coercion and torture to obtain a conviction. …

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