According to news reports—including this one from Arab News—Saudi national Homaidan Al-Turki has received a sentence reduction in his conviction on multiple counts of abusive behavior toward a domestic employee while in the US. The article states that the original sentencing judge made an error when he sentenced Al-Turki to 28 years in prison; the law only permitted a sentence of between four and twelve years. That was corrected today, with a new sentence of eight years imprisonment being assigned.
With consideration of his good behavior while in prison and his health problems—a claim supported by the prison superintendent—it is likely that Al-Turki will be released from prison in the next couple of years and then deported back to Saudi Arabia.
News reporting on legal issues tends to be generalized, not citing specific arguments, rules, or law that pertain to a given case. So far, I’m unable to find court documents about this action, so I’m forced to rely on what I consider to be less-than-fully-reliable reporting. As I’ve been following this case for the past five years, I’m interested in the details. When I find them, I’ll write them up.
Saudi student in maid abuse case wins reduced sentence
WALAA HAWARI | ARAB NEWS
RIYADH: Humaidan Al-Turki, a Saudi research student who was convicted in 2006 in the United States for abusing his maid, won his appeal to get his sentence reduced. He received a revised sentence of eight years, instead of the 28-year punishment he was handed by a Colorado court, on Friday.
Al-Turki, 36, was convicted of sexually assaulting his Indonesian housekeeper and keeping her as a virtual slave for four years.
Al-Turki’s lawyers on Friday succeeded in convincing the court hearing the appeal. The lawyers lodged an appeal to revise the 28-year sentence that he was handed, saying it contained a legal error.
The lawyers, according to family spokesperson Fahd Al-Nassar, had submitted documents and supporting letters requesting the case to be dropped or the sentence to be reduced.
The district attorney had admitted that the judge presiding over the case was only allowed to issue a sentence between four and 12 years. The general attorney also suggested changing the 20-year sentence to life, which was also rejected by Al-Turki’s lawyers.
Saudi national Homaidan Al-Turki was convicted in an American court, nearly four years ago, of an array of crimes involving his (and his wife’s) treatment of a servant they had brought to the US. Among the crimes for which he was convicted were 12 felony counts of unlawful sexual contact with use of force (i.e., ‘rape’), one felony count of criminal extortion and one felony count of theft. He also was found guilty of two misdemeanors: false imprisonment and conspiracy to commit false imprisonment.
Al-Turki and his family claim that this is all due to a ‘cultural misunderstanding’ of ‘traditional Saudi ways’ or simply ‘Islamophobia’. In fighting against his conviction, his attorneys have appealed to various levels of the US courts. The latest appeal, to the US Supreme Court, has been denied, The Washington Post reports:
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court won’t hear an appeal from a Saudi Arabian citizen who blamed anti-Muslim sentiment for his conviction for keeping his housekeeper a virtual slave.
The high court on Monday turned away an appeal from Homaidan Al-Turki. He was convicted of false imprisonment, conspiracy, criminal extortion, theft and unlawful sexual contact.
Al-Turki was convicted of sexually abusing his Indonesian housekeeper and paying her less than $2 per day.
He complained that he wasn’t allowed to question a potential juror about potential anti-Muslim sentiment.
The case is Al-Turki v. Colorado, 09-700.
Two years ago, a Saudi studying in the state of Colorado, Homaidan Al-Turki, was convicted of sexually harassing his Indonesia maid while keeping her in a situation of domestic servitude. His family—and a sector of the Saudi general public—believe the jury’s verdict to have been unfair. Saudi Gazette reports that Al-Turki’s appeal of the verdict to the Colorado Court of Appeals has failed. Now, the family will seek to have the case heard before the Colorado Supreme Court.
Turki’s case to be taken to Colorado Supreme Court
Faheem Al-Hamid and Mansour Al-Shehri
JEDDAH/RIYADH – A team of six US law offices will appeal the Aug. 2006 verdict of 28 years imprisonment of Saudi national Homaidan Al-Turki for alleged forced labor and aggravated sexual harassment of his Indonesian housemaid with the Colorado Supreme Court, the Al-Turki family said Friday.
The law offices have started to act, the Al-Turki family spokesman said after the Colorado Court of Appeals upheld Al-Turki’s conviction on Thursday, ruling that the trial court correctly set limits during jury selection and that the jury’s findings were supported by evidence. It can take up to a year-and-a-half before the Colorado Supreme Court reaches a decision about the appeal, said Fahd Al-Nassar, spokesman of the Al-Turki family.
The decision of the Colorado Court of Appeals to uphold the sentence disappointed the family members who firmly believe that their son is innocent behind bars, Al-Nassar said.
The decision has compounded the grievance of Homaidan’s mother who had just lost her sister, he added.
For earlier coverage of Homaidan Al-Turki, you can follow this link. I apologize for the typographic clutter in some of of those posts. Apparently, when this blog was moved to a new server, punctuation marks like apostrophes and quotation marks got changed to their HTML codes. I’ve not found a way to correct this problem in bulk. That means going back through nearly 5,500 posts and correcting them manually. I haven’t found the time (or energy) to do that just yet.
This Arab News article on an appeal by the Saudi Shoura Council Chairman suggests that he doesn’t quite understand how US federalism works. He seeks the intervention of the Federal government into a state criminal case. It just doesn’t work like that in the US. The Federal government has already done as many favors (if indeed they were favors) for Homaidan Al-Turki—convicted of sexual abuse and withholding his maid’s wages—by dropping related Federal charges.
Al-Turki is exercising his right to appeal his conviction under Colorado state law, as is proper. But claiming that his behavior was ‘only typical Saudi behavior’ doesn’t say much good about Saudis in general or him in particular.
RIYADH, 28 March 2008 â€” Shoura Council Chairman Dr. Saleh Bin-Humaid has urged US authorities to review the case of Homaidan Al-Turki, a 37-year-old Saudi student who was found guilty in a Colorado state court of 12 counts of sexually assaulting his Indonesian maid.
â€œThe Saudi people sympathize with Homaidan Al-Turki and they closely follow up his case,â€ the Shoura chief said and hoped for a speedy end to the issue. He also emphasized the Kingdomâ€™s respect for American justice.
Al-Turki, a former Ph.D. student at the University of Colorado, maintains that he did not sexually assault the woman, whose identity has not been disclosed due to the nature of the alleged crime, and has accused US officials of persecuting him for â€œtraditional Muslim behavior.â€
… Al-Turki, who had been a graduate student in Colorado for nine years, was sentenced in August 2006 to 20 years for the rape charges and eight years for theft of the maidâ€™s wages. The federal charges of not renewing the maidâ€™s work visa, falsely imprisoning the woman and holding the womanâ€™s passport to ensure she didnâ€™t flee were dropped after federal prosecutors decided the 28-year-sentence by the state court was sufficient. Al-Turki is appealing the verdict.
Al-Turkiâ€™s wife Sarah Al-Khonaizan returned to the Kingdom in September 2006 after serving two months in prison related to labor violations: Paying the maid less than $2 a day for more than four years, and withholding this wage, too. Al-Khonaizan claims the maid willingly wanted her employers to hold her salary, a claim denied by the plaintiff.
Officials Take Up Al-Turki Case With US
P.K. Abdul Ghafour, Arab News
JEDDAH, 4 September 2006 â€” Saudi officials have held high-level talks with US authorities in order to win the release of Homaidan Al-Turki, the Saudi man who was sentenced Aug. 31 by a Colorado court to 27 years to life in prison, the Saudi Press Agency said in a report yesterday.
â€œSenior Saudi officials have intervened at the highest level to resolve the case of Al-Turki,â€ the agency said, quoting its correspondent in Washington, Abdul Mohsen Al-Misfer. He did not disclose further details.
According to SPA, American authorities first arrested Al-Turki in 2004 for allegedly violating immigration laws before releasing him on bail. In June 2006, he was arrested again for allegedly mistreating his Indonesian maid. (09/04/06)
Sentence of Saudi Student Unfair, Says Prince Ahmad
P.K. Abdul Ghafour, Arab News
JEDDAH, 5 September 2006 â€” Deputy Interior Minister Prince Ahmad stated yesterday that the 27-year prison sentence given by a Colorado court to Saudi student Homaidan Al-Turki was too much and hoped that US authorities would reduce the sentence.
â€œIt appears that the matter does not deserve such a (harsh) verdict and we hope it would be less than that,â€ he said, commenting on the verdict issued by the court on Aug. 31 after Al-Turki was convicted of 12 counts of forced sexual assault, two misdemeanors related to forced imprisonment, and theft for keeping the maidâ€™s wages. (09/05/06)
It is entirely possible that something was not proper in the original trial. That is a matter for an appellate court to decide.
In the meantime, as I’m not aware of any readers having been at the trial, and as I do not have a transcript of the trial, I’m recommending we let the legal process work.
As things now stand, Al-Turki was convicted by a jury, in an ordinary criminal court, of several serious crimes. His wife was earlier convicted of lesser crimes. The crimes for which he was convicted are not “customary practices in the Islamic world”, at least not in this century. Slavery is slavery. If one pays at a much later date the salary owed, it does not erase the crime. While some Arab males may sexually abuse their servants, most Arabs are insulted that this is considered “normal behavior”. The Saudi media itself frequently publishes stories noting that this is not appropriate behavior.
No amount of opining, by blog writers, blog readers, Arab media, Western media, or officials of various stripes will make any difference. What will matter is what happens when the case is appealed.
The US is not at war with Islam. The US courts are not at war with Islam. American jurors are not at war with Islam. But to claim that Al-Turki’s behavior was just the way Arab Muslims “do things” is an affront to both Arabs and Islam.
The legal case of Homaidan al-Turki is once again before the courts. According to the linked Denver, CO news site, the government of Saudi Arabia is seeking his repatriation to the Kingdom where, it is promised, he will serve the remainder of his sentence for “the unlawful sexual contact by use of force, theft, and extortion” of a domestic servant while he was a graduate student in Colorado.
Homaidan and his many supporters Saudi Arabia argue that he is the victim of a political plot to punish Saudis for the events of 9/11. The jury, however, disagreed, finding personal responsibility on his part.
If he is repatriated, it’s unlikely that he would serve a 28-year sentence, never mind a life-term. Abuse of domestic servants, while a crime in Saudi Arabia, is rarely punished and never terribly severely. This will be a factor in the court’s decision-making.
Saudi Arabia is seeking the release of Homaidan al-Turki, a Saudi national who is serving a Colorado prison sentence for sexually assaulting a housekeeper whom he kept as a virtual slave in his home.
Security was increased Thursday for a hearing that was held for al-Turki at an Arapahoe County Courthouse. According to a report by 7News, snipers could be seen on the roof of the building and there was an added security checkpoint directly outside of the courtroom.
Fahed Al-Rawaf of the Saudi embassy in Washington D.C. appeared in the courtroom to ask the court to allow al-Turki to complete his sentence at home.
Al-Turki was convicted in 2006 and sentenced to 28 years to life for committing unlawful sexual contact by use of force, theft and extortion. He has maintained his innocence and has argued that the case was politically motivated and stems from anti-Muslim sentiment following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Colorado Attorney General Meets Al-Turkiâ€™s Relatives
Hadi Azzam, Arab News
RIYADH, 17 November 2006 â€” Colorado Attorney General John Suthers met the relatives of a 37-year-old Saudi man convicted to 27 years in prison for imprisoning, sexually assaulting and stealing from his Indonesian maid.
Homaidan Al-Turki, a former Ph.D student at the University of Colorado, denies the sexual assault charges and has accused US officials of persecuting him for â€œtraditional Muslim behaviors.â€
Suthers met with Homaidanâ€™s brother Ahmad ibn Ali Al-Turki and the family spokesman Fahd Al-Nasar on Wednesday.
Ahmad Al-Turki reiterated claims that his brother was forced to shave his beard after being taken into custody and his wife was forced to remove her hijab. Al-Turkiâ€™s family and others in the Kingdom believe that the Saudi man and his family were mistreated.
Suthers used the meeting to describe the US justice system and to clarify some matters, including how evidence was collected and presented in the case and how Al-Turki was found guilty of 12 counts of sexual assault, imprisonment, conspiracy to imprison, theft of the maidâ€™s $150-a-month wages and extortion. The immigration charges (paying less than federal minimum wage, not reporting the salary to tax authorities, and employing a woman whose work visa was expired) were dropped after Al-Turkiâ€™s wife Sarah Al-Khonaizan paid $64,000 to the maid for four years of unpaid work.
The Colorado case involving Homaidan Al-Turki is far from over. This Arab News piece notes that his family and a representative of the Saudi Human Rights organization visited the Attorney General in the case to learn what actually went on. Al-Turki’s American lawyer is still promising an appeal.
(AP) DENVER Federal prosecutors Thursday told a judge they wanted to drop their case against a Saudi Arabian citizen convicted in state court of sexually assaulting an Indonesian housekeeper and keeping her as a virtual slave for four years.
Homaidan Al-Turki, who faced a federal trial in October on charges of forced labor, document servitude and harboring an illegal immigrant, was sentenced in Arapahoe County District Court last week to 28 years to life in prison.
“The government’s decision is based on the fact that the Arapahoe County district attorney’s office did an outstanding job prosecuting the defendant and because of their hard work, the defendant has received a substantial prison sentence,” said Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office.
According to this piece, carried on the website of CBS TV’s Denver affiliate, the federal government will not persue its charges against Homaidan Al-Turki. It believe that not only was justice served in the state courts, but that dragging the housekeeper through more testimony would not be fair to her.
Boycott as a Weapon
RIYADH: YET another boycott. SMS messages and chain e-mails calling for boycott of American products.
This time the boycott was called by the wife of Homaidan Al-Turki, the Saudi Ph.D. student studying in the United Sates who was convicted of abusing his housemaid and was sentenced to 27 years to life on Aug. 31.
Many Saudis have doubts on the justice of the verdict issued against the Saudi student. Turki himself blamed anti-Muslim sentiment in America for his long sentence…
But why have Saudis like many Muslims around the world resorted to economical boycotts as a form of protest? And how effective are they?
â€œSince Saudis, like many Muslims around the world, are unable to protest on the streets, the only way they can get their voices heard is by boycotting products,â€ explained Ihsan Bo-Holaiga, a prominent Saudi economist.
â€œItâ€™s basically a form of freedom of expression. I am angry and I will let you know that I am angry by not buying your product.â€
Aziza Al-Kateeb a Saudi economic researcher agrees. â€œItâ€™s a way to send out a message, that we are unhappy with the current situation,â€ said Kateeb.
From Saudi Gazette. The article notes that the effectiveness of a boycott depends very much on the size of the economy on the receiving end. The boycott of Danish goods following the cartoon episode had an effect. Boycotting the US over this, probably not.
Khalid Aldawsari, alleged to have been planning to build and plant bombs in various locations in the US, made his first appearance in a Texas court today for his arraignment, a step in the legal process at which a defendant offers his plea of guilty or not guilty. Aldawsari pled not guilty. In mid-March, another hearing will be held at which it will be determined whether Aldawsari should be held in jail until his criminal trial or if he might be release upon the payment of a bond.
This article is interesting in that the correspondent interviews Moody Al-Khalaf, Director of Culture and Social Affairs, herself a former writer for Arab News. She points out that Aldawsari was on a scholarship offered by Saudi Basic Industries (SABIC), not a direct foreign student scholarship offered by the government. With over 10,000 Saudi students in the US, all it takes is one like this (or Homaidan Al-Turki, I’d add) to blacken the names of all of them. Of course, law abiding, peaceful students don’t often merit media coverage, so there’s a built-in bias when it comes to media reports. But it’s still useful to remember that it’s the atypical that makes the news, not the ordinary.
I’ve no idea whether Aldawsari is guilty of the crimes for which he has been arrested. That’s for a trial to conclude. If the criminal complaint filed against him is at all accurate, then I’m truly grateful not to be in his shoes.
Saudi student appears in US court
BARBARA FERGUSON | ARAB NEWS
WASHINGTON: Khalid Ali M. Aldawsari, the college student from Saudi Arabia accused of buying chemicals online as part of a plan to blow up key US targets, including the home of former President George W. Bush, appeared in federal court in Texas on Friday.
Aldawsari was arrested late Thursday by FBI agents in Texas on a federal charge of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction in connection with his alleged purchase of chemicals and equipment necessary to make an improvised explosive device (IED) and his research of potential US targets.
Aldawsari made his initial appearance in federal court in Lubbock on Friday morning.
Legally admitted into the United States in 2008 on a student visa and is enrolled at South Plains College near Lubbock, Texas. Aldawsari faces a maximum sentence of life in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.
UPDATE: According to this report in Saudi Gazette, the Saudi Embassy is indeed taking care of Aldawsari’s legal representation. I’m not aware of any instance in which the Embassy has refused to provide this support, no matter the alleged crime. The Saudis see this as appropriate support of Saudi nationals. Note that countries like the US and the UK do not provide this kind of support, limiting what they do to ensuring that the legal process is followed rather than paying for lawyers.
The Arabic daily Al-Madinah runs a very strong piece calling for the ending of the way Saudi Arabia currently handles employment of labor. In this Arab News translation, the op-ed notes that the current system is both in violation of Council of Ministers decisions and of Shariah law itself. Now, many foreign workers find themselves in situations not easily distinguished from slavery, something far from the dignity that the Quran says should be accorded all human beings. The current system is in violation of an array of international treaty obligations, too, something that does nothing for the reputation of Saudi Arabia and Saudis in general.
It’s not just domestic workers who are being deprived of basic human rights under the sponsorship system. Manual laborers, brought in for jobs ranging from construction and manufacture to agricultural work are kept in sub-standard housing with no ready access to water, toilets, and decent food, never mind such luxuries as having phones or the freedom to travel.
I do think the proposal to have a unitary body that manages all contracts with foreign workers is the right way to go. Presently, a violation by an individual employer is small potatoes, something barely worth the effort of the authorities to investigate and prosecute—tough for the employees, of course, but hey, they’re not Saudi! As a result, nothing much gets done to enforce existing regulations. I note with some bemusement that even Saudi law prohibits employers of holding their employees’ passports. I guess Homaidan Al-Turki didn’t get that memo, either.
There are many Saudi who treat their employees well, making them almost a part of the family. Too many, however, abuse the system and abuse their employees. If a new system results in higher costs for imported labor, then that’s what it does. It might open a few more doors for Saudis to find jobs for themselves. It might help people realize that they are capable of a lot of things, even those things ‘below their dignity’ that need to be done.
Perhaps it will take the example of Kuwait, which is about to scrap its own personal sponsorship program, to make the change.
Scrap the sponsorship system
ABDUL AZIZ AL-SUWEIGH | AL-MADINAH
The sponsorship system is a complicated issue in the Kingdom. I hope Labor Minister Adel Fakieh will follow in the footsteps of his predecessor Ghazi Al-Gosaibi, especially the optimistic way the late minister handled thorny issues.
Readers responding to my recent article on the sponsorship system are nearly unanimous that the current system needs a thorough review. Some readers demanded amendments to the system with guarantees for sponsors and giving more rights and a dignified status to expatriate workers.
The general impression I got from readers’ reactions is that the system in its current form serves only the interests of a small section of people who have found it as an unending boon for them at the expense of workers and citizens.
Reacting to my article, Muhammad Sindi wrote on his Facebook page that the system is a form of slavery in the sense that the sponsor exploits the worker by demanding regular monthly payments from him, whether he worked for him (the sponsor) or not.
A member of the Shoura Council, Abdul Rahman Al-Annad, pointed out on his Facebook page that the Council of Ministers’ decision No. 166, dated July 16, 2000, scrapped the technical terms “sponsor” and “sponsored” and replaced them with “employer” and “worker.”
The decision also forbade the employer from keeping the passports of a worker and his family in his custody and gave the worker freedom to move about in the Kingdom, as well as many other rights. But the order has never been fully implemented.
NJ.com, the online news amalgamator, reports on an interesting legal case. An American Muslim has been convicted of kidnapping and sexually assaulting his wife. His arguments—at one time accepted by a lower court—were that his behavior was withing the traditional bounds of his culture. A higher court disagreed and sent him back for a new trial.
I do not doubt that many Muslims share this man’s belief that he was behaving correction and appropriately. Indeed, his behavior would not raise many eyebrows in more than a few countries. He is not, however, being railroaded by an anti-Muslim judicial system. Rather, the State of New Jersey is applying its laws uniformly and noting that personal beliefs, including religious beliefs, do not hold a higher value than laws generated by a state or country’s own values.
I don’t know whether we’ll be seeing YouTube videos calling for the President to pardon this man. He may have enough friends to make that happen. Bus, as in the case of Homaidan Al-Turki, the arguments will be no more persuasive. The just observation of human rights—including the right of women to say no to sex—is considered far more worthy of protection than an individual’s perception of what is permissible.
A Bayonne man faces up to 20 years in prison after being convicted of kidnapping and sexually assaulting his wife, whom he met for the first time at their wedding in Morocco in 2008.
The case made headlines in August when an appeals court reversed a ruling by Hudson County Superior Court Judge Joseph Charles, who refused to give the wife a restraining order even though the judge concluded there was “clear proof” the husband engaged in nonconsensual sex with her in November 2008 and January 2009.
Charles, a former assemblyman and state senator, said he did not feel the husband “had a criminal desire to or intent to sexually assault . He was operating under his belief that it is, as the husband, his desire to have sex when and whether he wanted to, was consistent with his practices and was something that was not prohibited.”
The appellate court’s June 23 reversal said Charles was “mistaken” in his theory that the husband’s personal belief system trumped state statutes against rape.