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Saudi Royals Intervene to Keep Murdering Imam in Jail

Wed, February 13, 2013

Following international and internal outcry, the Saudi royal family has intervened in the case of an Islamic imam who, after torturing and killing his 5 year-old daughter Lama, was set to be released from prison by the Saudi legal system.

Fayhan al-Ghamdi, a popular imam who regularly appeared on Saudi TV, admitted to using a cane and cables on his daughter after suspecting that she had lost her virginity. The child died in a Saudi hospital after suffering a crushed skull, a broken back, broken ribs, a broken left arm and extensive bruising and burns. Reports from social workers say she had been repeated raped, with the wounds in her rectum burned.

Al-Ghamdi was set to be released from prison, where he had spent only eight months for the crime, after he agreed to pay his former wife (Lama’s mother) “blood money.”  The court set the amount at close to $50,000 (half of what he would have been required to pay had the child he killed been a boy).

Media reports now indicate that the royal family has blocked Al-Ghamdi’s release.

Public cries in Saudi Arabia have called for the imam’s execution, however, the Saudi legal system -- despite allowing for the execution of those accused of “witchcraft and sorcery,”  among other such “crimes” -- does not allow the execution of a father for the crime of murdering his child or even his wives.

The case has caused a worldwide scandal at a time when the Saudis have been trying to show the world their “moderate side.” The Times reported sources in the Saudi capital Riyadh as saying the royal family had been “stung” by the attention the case has garnered.

Protests against the court’s verdict began on social media by Saudi human rights activists on Twitter  at the site #AnaLama (I Am Lama) and quickly spread. In response, Saudi authorities scrambled to address the public outcry by setting up a 24-hour hotline to take calls about child abuse.