Dammam , Asharq Al-Awsat- Earlier this month, a group of Saudi dentistry students celebrated the end of their studies. Their colleague Mohammad Makki al Khunayzi was absent from the ceremony. He is currently serving a three-year sentence in a Jordanian prison.
The 23 year old had been studying dentistry at the Jordanian University of Science and Technology in Irbid. Devoted to his studies, Mohammad had completed three years and had a year and a half left until graduation. He lived in an apartment in Amman he shared with other Saudi students.
According to his brother, Mohammad fell victim to a conspiracy and a web of lies perpetrated against him by a Jordanian teenager. He was accused of amoral behavior and sentenced to three years behind bars in 2003.
In 2003, when the apartment was broken-into, Mohammad caught the thief, a young Jordanian man and hit him severely. A few months later, the teenager was kidnapped by a Jordanian group of men and was sexually assaulted. When giving evidence to the police, the youth claimed that Mohammad took part in the assault but was not involved in the kidnapping. In court, he also alleged the Saudi student had taken several illicit pictures of him using the camera on his mobile phone.
Mohammad categorically denied all these accusations and showed the court that his phone had no such pictures stored in its memory and that it lacked a camera!
Abdul Hadi al Khunayzi, Mohammad’s uncle, who raised him after the death of his father, when he was on a week old, told Asharq al Awsat he never doubted his nephew’s innocence. “The lawyer assured us our child [will be exonerated] yet when the verdict was announced, the attackers were sentenced to 10 years and Mohammad to 3 years in prison”, he added.
In charge of his nephew’s education, Abdul Hadi said he spent “more than 180,00 Saudi Riyals (almost $50 thousand) on his education. His plight has shattered the family’s dreams and aspirations.”
The family, who live on the Tarut Island off Saudi Arabia’s eastern coast, accuses the Kingdom’s embassy in Jordan, and particularly its consulate section, of negligence and lack of assistance.
We went to the embassy asking for help but no one willing to listen. The embassy did not designate a lawyer for the case and left us to with little experience to search for one. We lost a chance to reach an out of court settlement”, Abdul Hadi said.
For his part, Mohammad’s brother indicated, “I visited the Saudi ambassadors’ office. He was very supportive and referred us to the consular department. But we discovered the latter was overloaded and it was unable to help us.”
“Every morning I visited the ambassador’s office and then the consulate. The ambassador was very active in contacting Jordanian officials. We wish they had helped us to find a lawyer to represent [Mohammad] in court or to give us a list of trusted lawyers”, he said.
He blamed the family’s lack of legal knowledge on a string of lawyers who demanded huge sums of money but failed to give Mohammad his freedom back.
Meanwhile, the Saudi embassy in Amman told Asharq al Awsat on Wednesday that it does not have any lawyers assigned to defending Saudi citizens in the Jordanian courts, which is the reason it did not appoint a legal representative to assist the al Khunayzi family.
As for the family’s demand that its son spends the remainder of his sentence in a Saudi prison, a representative from the consulate Mansur al Sabei said, “The Saudi ambassador discussed this issue with the Jordanian Foreign Ministry and General Security. Existing laws allow prisoners to spend their sentences in their home country but the Jordanian side believed this case was exceptional because of a law that excludes the transfer of those convicted of drug crimes, crimes of honor and sexual crimes.”
He added, “The Saudi consulate in Amman periodically visits Saudi prisoners in Jordan . There are currently 61 in prison, including 39 serving sentences and the rest waiting to be convicted. We visit them monthly to check on their situation needs. The embassy provides them with winter and summer cloths and a small monthly allowance for those already charged.”