Canadian facing beheading in Saudi Arabia says Tories ignore his claims

MONTREAL - A Canadian man facing beheading in Saudi Arabia says the federal government is aware he was tortured in jail, despite claims to the contrary.

MONTREAL - A Canadian man facing beheading in Saudi Arabia says the federal government is aware he was tortured in jail, despite claims to the contrary.

Mohamed Kohail detailed his torture in a letter he handed to Canadian MP Deepak Obhrai, who visited him in the prison last December.

Obhrai, the parliamentary secretary to Foreign affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, confirmed he received the letter.

But he wouldn't comment on its contents and denied knowledge of the abuse allegations.

"We were really surprised to hear Mr. Obhrai mention that someone did not speak to him of the torture allegations," Mahmoud Al-Ken, a spokesman for Kohail, said Sunday.

"It's really disappointing. He had it in writing."

Liberal MP Dan McTeague, who has been closely involved in the case, came out last week alleging a coverup on the torture charges on the part of the Tory government.

"One thing is clear," McTeague said in a news release. "By denying they never heard his claims, the Harper government has completely turned its back on a Canadian citizen facing death by beheading in a Saudi jail."

Kohail, 24, and a Jordanian friend were convicted of murder after Munzer Al-Hiraki was killed in January, 2007 during an after-school brawl in Jidda, which apparently started when Kohail's younger brother was accused of insulting a girl.

The brothers have repeatedly said they were acting in self-defence and were not responsible for the fatal blows inflicted during the fight that involved dozens of teenage boys.

Al-Ken noted that Kohail's statement that he was tortured could play a key role in his defence.

"The only basis for the legal decision is the confession signed during custody," he said.

"This confession is the major evidence on which the court is basing its judgment."

Al-Ken adds that even though the Tory government has committed to seeking clemency for Kohail, time and appeals are running out.

"They're sending inaccurate statements to the Canadian public by saying torture allegations were not mentioned to them or they weren't aware of it," he said.

"We don't have many chances left. We don't think such a statement by Mr. Obhrai is very helpful."

Canadian officials were unavailable for comment on Sunday.

Kohail's younger brother, Sultan, 18, was initially sentenced as an accessory and received a sentence of a year in jail and 200 lashes. The victim's family appealed, resulting in a probable new trial for Sultan.

 
 
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