Colorado Attorney General John Suthers returned this week end from Saudi Arabia, where he assured the Saudis that Homaidan Al Turki, who was accused and convicted of holding an Indonesian nanny as a captive and sexually assaulting her, had a fair trial.
Having done business in Saudi Arabia, I am repulsed by the injustice and oppression which prevails in that country, and I was ready to convict Al Turki if it was proven that he indeed wronged that woman. The allegations against Mr. Al Turki, unfortunately, are common place amongst our best allies and the business partners of our raining Bush dynasty.
Let us remember, however, that it is Homaidan Al Turki that is on trial here and not Saudi Arabia. In the rules of evidence of our legal system, prior acts of a person, in many cases, cannot be admitted against him to prove a crime, let alone the acts of people with whom he had no acquaintance even if they were his compatriots. As someone who watched the trial and followed this case very closely, I can’t help but wonder if Al Turki really got his day in court, or if he simply was convicted based on fear, xenophobia and the terrible deeds of many of his compatriots.
Sitting in the court room, I couldn’t help but wonder why A manikin dressed in traditional Saudi attire stood there for the entire trial. I was further astonished when 9-11 was mentioned several times, though indirectly, despite its highly prejudicial value. We also learned that two FBI agents and a translator were sent to Indonesia at tax payer’s expense to take pictures of the victim’s family. Most blatant however were the FBI’s aggressive acts of harassment and coercion of members of Al Turki’s community, myself included. Agents would visit people in their home and interview them for hours, twisting events, taking advantage of their authority and capitalizing on the fears of people who came from authoritarian countries. Those who had the sense to ask for an attorney were further intimidated by being told that they shouldn’t need an attorney if they didn’t do anything wrong, the implication being, of course, that having an attorney would make them guilty.
So, are the Saudis justified in questioning the fairness of the trial? Considering the above, as well as the fact that the alleged victim repeatedly denied any sexual assault despite being questioned 11 times by FBI agents and officials from her country’s embassy, only changing her statement a day before she got her immigration papers, one can understand why some people may be skeptical. As if that was not enough, Al Turki’s attorneys found twelve blatant errors during the trial which together stood in the way of Al Turki’s fair judgment – and the manikin was not one of them.
During the sentencing, Al Turki, who had no prior acts of violence and who was out on bail for over a year during his trial, was disallowed the opportunity to wear street clothes, an opportunity given to people convicted of more heinous crimes, and was forced to sit in the court room restrained in handcuffs, despite his attorney’s plea to the judge. In a highly charged political climate, and when our legal system stresses the appearance as well as the actuality of fairness in a trial, why were these things allowed to happen?
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