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Canadian one step closer to beheading as Saudi court upholds death sentence

OTTAWA - A lower court in Saudi Arabia has upheld the death penalty against a Canadian in the killing of a Syrian-born teenager, rejecting urgings from the country's high court to rethink the ruling, the Arab News reported Thursday.

OTTAWA - A lower court in Saudi Arabia has upheld the death penalty against a Canadian in the killing of a Syrian-born teenager, rejecting urgings from the country's high court to rethink the ruling, the Arab News reported Thursday.

The Jidda General Court upheld the sentences imposed on Mohamed Kohail of Montreal and a Jordanian friend, said the English-language newspaper's online edition, quoting sources inside the court.

The report did not say when the ruling was issued.

The Harper government said it was dismayed by the reported court decision.

"We are deeply disappointed at the reports," Deepak Obhrai, the parliamentary secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, told the Commons.

"The minister of foreign affairs has requested that his officials review the Saudi court decision when it is issued (in writing)," Obhrai said.

Kohail, 23, his younger brother Sultan, and Jordanian national Homanna Essat, 22, were convicted of murder in the death of Munzer Al-Hiraki during a January 2007 after-school brawl.

The court had been asked by the Supreme Judicial Council in February to review its verdict.

"It would appear the court responded very hastily to the request and did not take up the recommendations of the (Supreme Judicial Council)," Liberal consular affairs critic Dan McTeague said in response to the news.

"My sense is that we have something of a standoff in the Saudi judicial system."

The older Kohail and Ezzat were sentenced to death early last year.

In November, the verdict was upheld by the Appeals Court but was not endorsed by the Supreme Judicial Council when it looked at the case in February.

Sultan Kohail had earlier been sentenced to 200 lashes and a year in prison by a juvenile court.

However, the ruling was overturned by an appeals court and Sultan was ordered to face a new trial in adult court. As a result, Sultan could also ultimately face the death penalty if convicted.

The school fight that ended with Al-Hiraki's death erupted after Sultan, who was then 17, allegedly harassed Al-Hiraki's 19-year-old cousin, Raneem. The younger Kohail has denied the allegation.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is meeting with his G20 counterparts in London this week, and was expected to be, at times, a stone's throw away from Saudi King Abdullah at the gathering.

"I think (the prime minister) has a chance - for the lives of these two, in the moments that he has over the course of the day, sitting no more than 30 feet away from King Abdullah - to raise the matter with him," said McTeague.

The Jidda court verdict was expected to be returned to the Supreme Judicial Council for its consideration within a couple of days.

"The court prepared its reply. It upheld the death penalty verdict," said an unidentified court source quoted by the Saudi paper.

"The court will send its official reply on Saturday," he added.

The supreme council is charged with endorsing all capital and corporal punishments issued by lower courts.

Al-Hiraki's family has been approached over the past month by several public figures asking them to forgive the youths. So far, the family has rejected those appeals.

 
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