Asharq Al Awsat, Riyadh – Thousands of Saudis studying in the United States of America as part of an exchange academic program by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques are anxiously awaiting the sentencing of Homaidan al Turki on Thursday. Al Turki, a PhD student, faces charges of forced labor, involuntary servitude and harboring an illegal immigrant. In recent trial sessions, the judge has suggested the Saudi citizen could face lifetime imprisonment.
Al Turki was found guilty by a court in Denver, in Colorado. He will be sentenced on Thursday. John Rachilano, his defense lawyer, has stated that he would appeal the sentence that his client faces.
Asharq Al Awsat spoke to a number of Saudi students in the United States who expressed their fears on the trial’s impact on their academic future. They also indicated they were determined to follow the trial and learn about the US justice system.
A Saudi student told Asharq Al Awsat, on condition of anonymity, that al Turki’s case is important to him as he has also come to the US to study and fulfill his dreams. He feared other Saudi students could find themselves in a similar situation.
Another Saudi student in Colorado stated that the trial has occupied his mind since it began and that he no longer felt secure living in the US. As a direct result of the trial, he added, several Saudis and Muslim individuals, including veiled women, had been racially abused. He predicted that the outcome of the trial will cause Saudi students to reconsider whether to integrate in mainstream society and take part in social activities, for fear of being prosecuted in US courts.
A number of Saudi students who are spending their vacation in their native country have stated that al Turki did not fall foul American laws and was well known for his excellent manners and good treatment of others. In their view, if these factors failed to help him in his fight for justice and to reclaim his innocence, the image of the American judicial system would be tarnished in the eyes of Saudi students.
Abdullah Dawood told Asharq Al Awsat that during al Turki’s stay in the US, he introduced non-Muslims to Islam and supported the Denver Islamic school. Al Turki also translated a number of Islamic books and sought to gather Muslim and Saudi students in Colorado, offering his assistance to all of them.
Humaidan al Turki’s wife, Sarah Khonaizan, is currently serving a one-month prison sentence. Together, they have four daughters. The trial saw members of the Muslim community in Colorado and al Turki’s lecturers unite to show support of the Saudi PhD student.