OTTAWA - The judicial wrangling in Saudi Arabia over a Montreal man facing beheading is a good sign, says Trade Minister Stockwell Day, because it shows the country's top court isn't sold on a lower court's ruling.
Saudi Arabia's Supreme Judicial Council has reportedly asked a lower court to again rethink its decision on Mohamed Kohail. It's the latest volley in a game of judicial ping-pong between the two Saudi courts.
Kohail's lawyer was told of the Supreme Judicial Council's request of the lower court on Saturday, said Liberal MP Dan McTeague, who has been closely involved in the case.
Day, in Jordan where he signed a free-trade deal on Sunday, said the judicial stand-off may auger well for Kohail.
"The fact that it's been referred back to the lower court, that is the higher court saying 'There are some issues here that need to be reconsidered,"' he said.
"We're taking that as positive ... but I don't want to be reading things into this decision."
Forcing the Jidda General Court to once more rethink its ruling may allow Kohail's lawyers to air concerns not previously heard, Day added.
"Any time an item is being appealed, there's always the potential for increased consideration on the points of concern," he said.
"That's why though their appeal process, like Canada's, can be extensive, it shows they are giving thought to the issues that have been raised."
McTeague, the party's consular critic, said Day's comments show a lack of understanding of the Saudi justice system.
"How can he be encouraged when this has gone back (to the lower court) for the sixth time?" McTeague said.
"The reality here is he shows a distinct lack of interest by making that kind of a comment, because it demonstrates in spades that that simply means another rubber stamp that continues to put the life and Mohamed and his brother in jeopardy."
Kohail, 24, was sentenced to death after being convicted in the death of a man during an after-school brawl in Jidda in 2007.
The brawl apparently started when his younger brother, Sultan, 18, was accused of insulting a girl.
The brothers have repeatedly said they were acting in self-defence and were not involved in inflicting the fatal wounds during the fight, which involved dozens of teenagers.
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, meanwhile, had earlier been sentenced to 200 lashes and a year in prison by a juvenile court.
But 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.
Both brothers have claimed their innocence and say the Saudi judicial system has not afforded them a fair trial.
Mohamed Kohail has written directly to Stephen Harper, asking the prime minister to personally intervene in his case.
His family members gave the letter to Day on Saturday as the trade minister met with them in Jidda, and asked him to deliver it to Harper.
In it, Kohail tells Harper he feels his government has let him down.
"I am currently spending more time in jail than William Sampson although my case does not have any political implications," he wrote.
"Yet I feel my government had failed to help me in every simple legal and councillor (consular) procedure, which led me to the fate I am facing today, beheading by sword."
William Sampson, who holds a dual British-Canadian citizenship, was imprisoned and tortured in Saudi Arabia where he was arrested in 2001, accused of involvement in a string of bombings in Riyadh. He was among seven foreigners granted amnesty and freed in 2003.
Kohail, who has written a previous letter that never reached Harper, asks the prime minister in his latest letter to contact Saudi King Abdullah personally.
Day's office said the cases of Mohamed Kohail and his brother Sultan were also raised by the minister during bilateral meetings, including one with Bandar bin Mohammed Al-Aiban, president of the Saudi Human Rights Commission.