Canadian spared execution by Saudi, granted retrial

Sun Jan 10, 2010 2:24pm EST
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TORONTO (Reuters) - Saudi authorities have revoked the death sentence imposed on a Montreal man and granted him a retrial on charges stemming from an after-school brawl that left a Syrian teenager dead.

The decision, which Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon confirmed in a statement on Saturday, was made after Ottawa appealed for clemency and raised objections to the sentence with Saudi human rights authorities.

Mohamed Kohail, a 24-year-old Canadian citizen, was facing public beheading after being convicted three years ago of killing a student during a fight in Jeddah that involved dozens of youth. He remains detained in a Saudi jail, according the ministry's statement.

Canada carried out its last death sentence in 1962 and abolished capital punishment in 1976.

Relations between Saudi Arabia and Canada were badly strained a decade ago over the case of William Sampson, a Canadian man who spent three years in a Saudi jail on a murder charge.

Sampson, released in 2003 after being granted clemency by the Saudi king, said he was tortured in prison. Saudi authorities denied the charge.

(Reporting by Frank McGurty, Editing by Sandra Maler)