The Saudi ambassador in Bangladesh has defended the execution of eight Bangladeshi workers on charges of killing an Egyptian security guard and robbery in Riyadh four years ago.
The Saudi authorities beheaded the eight men Friday turning down clemency appeal from Bangladesh amid outcry from rights groups, including Amnesty International.
"All legal procedures were followed to ensure that the trial was fair and transparent," Saudi Ambassador Dr Abdullah Al Bussairy told reporters at his Gulshan residence yesterday.
He said the defendants were given legal assistance and enough time to argue their case during the four-year trial. All the trial process was completed, he said.
The envoy said his country also backed Bangladesh in a failed bid to persuade the family of the murdered Egyptian guard to forgive the convicted Bangladeshis in exchange for blood money.
The victim's family turned down the offer of blood money, he said.
The ambassador said under sharia law practised in Saudi Arabia only the victim's family can forgive the accused in exchange for blood money, but the Egyptian victim's family declined to accept the blood money despite repeated efforts by Bangladesh embassy.
Bussairy said the Bangladesh ambassador in Riyadh held meetings with the Egyptian ambassador to Saudi Arabia in a bid to seek clemency from the victim's family by paying blood money, but it did not work.
The ambassador said the Bangladesh embassy staff in Riyadh tried their best to help the eight defendants during the trial. They appointed full-time translators during the argument and other trial process. The accused also had hired their own translators, so there was no language problem at all, he added.
He said the accused Bangladeshis pleaded guilty during the open trial. Of the 11 accused, eight convicts were beheaded while three others who were found not directly involved in the murder were handed jail terms.
“The Saudi government acts to implement the law of Allah. We had nothing to do but to uphold the sanctions of Allah. The sharia law has been implemented through the execution," the ambassador said.
The Egyptian embassy in Riyadh also joined hands with Bangladesh embassy to satisfy the family of the Egyptian security guard Saeed Mohammed Abdulkhaleq, but the family rejected any negotiation and blood money, and rather wanted "Kisash", which means blood for blood.
"At this stage, neither the president nor the prime minister has power to pardon the accused until and unless the victim's family forgives by taking blood money," the ambassador said adding, "The law is equally applicable for Saudi citizens and all foreigners who are living in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia."
Citing an example, the ambassador said a Saudi national was also executed for killing an Afghan national on the day the Bangladeshis were beheaded.
The Saudi citizen's family tried their best to seek pardon from the victim's family by giving blood money, but the Afghan family did not accept the offer.
So, the ambassador said, it sets an example that there is no scope of doing any favour in such cases.
Asked about the criticism of the execution by international human rights organisations, Bussairy said the law of Allah gets precedence over what the human rights organisations say.
On allegation that the Saudi trial was not fully fair and transparent, the ambassador said the case continued for the last four years and the accused were given all legal supports to defend themselves. The court found them guilty.
The ambassador said the people of Bangladesh and Saudi nationals know that the Saudi government implements sharia law. Neither the Saudi government nor any individual can change it.
Bussairy said Bangladeshi nationals who have been working in Saudi Arabia are familiar with the Saudi laws.
Asked if the execution would strain relations between Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia, he said Bangladesh-Saudi relations are deep rooted and such an incident would no way affect the ties.