British officials have allowed a Saudi prince who murdered his servant in London to return home in a prison swap.
Prince Saud bin Abdulaziz bin Nasir al Saud, a grandson of King Abdullah, was convicted of murder and inflicting grievous bodily harm by a jury for beating his manservant Bandar Abdullah Abdulaziz to death in a swanky hotel in London on Valentine’s Day in 2011. His victim, who was traveling with al Saud, suffered weeks of abuse at his hands before eventually succumbing to the blows.
The British Ministry of Justice would not comment on the case or about why the 36-year-old Saudi prince was handed over to Saudi authorities. However, AFP reported that a ministry spokesperson acknowledged that the UK has an agreement with Saudi Arabia under which prisoners are exchanged so they can serve their sentences in their home countries.
The Times reported that UK corrections officers escorted al Saud to a UK airport. There, al Saud was surrendered to Saudi guards who lead him to the plane for the flight to Saudi Arabia. Al Saud is expected to serve the remaining time of his 20-year sentence in a Saudi prison after serving fewer than three years of his sentence in the UK.
The conditions of Al Saud’s prison sentence in Saudi Arabia or whether he will be given preferential treatment compared to the other prisoners were not revealed. Technically, he faces the death penalty for having a homosexual relationship, which was brought up during his trial, as well as murder in his home country of Saudi Arabia. Under Sharia law, which is still the law of the land in Saudi Arabia, homosexual activity is punishable by death. Al Saud’s lawyer John Kelsey-Fry said during the murder trial that al Saud risked punishment in Saudi Arabia for homosexual sexual behavior only if it became an established fact.
The prosecutor’s assertion that al Saud covered up his sexuality to avoid being executed in his home country was widely reported in the British tabloid press. However, the claims that al Saud faces a public beheading in Saudi Arabia for his homosexual acts or for murder is highly unlikely, since he is part of the royal family.
Al Saud’s murder victim was found in a hotel room that he shared with al Saud. His body lay in a pool of blood on the bed. Al Saud’s defense attorneys did not dispute the fact that it was al Saud who had landed the lethal blows that resulted in his manservant and traveling companion’s death. At issue was their claim that al Saud’s punching and kicking his victim arose from a spontaneous and unplanned burst of anger. His victim’s death was an accident, they argued. Instead of a murder conviction, which the prosecutors sought, the defense attorneys said the lighter sentence of manslaughter should apply.
For the prosecutors, al Saud had physically and emotionally abused his servant on a consistent basis. The abuse was routine, and, considering that the victim had to be treated at a hospital following one of the beatings, al Saud was well aware of the danger his violence posed, the prosecutors said. Instead of rushing for help when he saw that his alleged friend was in distress, the prosecutors said al Saud not only waited several hours before calling for help, but rationally sought to cover his tracks and to seek diplomatic immunity for what he had done.
The jury agreed with the prosecutors and returned guilty verdicts for murder and inflicting grievous bodily harm in less than two hours.