A Saudi Arabian court has sentenced Islamic preacher Fayhan Al Ghamdi to 8 years of imprisonment and 800 lashes for torturing and killing Lama (also spelled Luma), his five-year old daughter. The court awarded 1 million Saudi Rials (US $270,000) in “blood money” to his ex-wife and Luma's mother, Syeda Muhammad Ali. Al Ghamdi's second wife was awarded 10 months imprisonment and 150 lashes for taking part in the crime and not reporting Al Ghamdi's torturing of his daughter to the police.
It has been established that Fayhan Al Ghamdi tortured his daughter while she was visiting him in late 2011. Reports state that Al Ghamdi doubted his five-year old daughter's virginity, and later confessed to using cables and a cane. Saudi human rights activists claimed and it was later reported that Al Ghamdi had also raped Lama, but this was denied by her mother. Lama Al Ghamdi died in October, 2012 after almost seven months in coma.
In Saudi Arabia, which implements Islamic Sharia law, a father cannot be sentenced to death for murdering his children, and neither husbands for killing their wives. The range of punishment possible include only jail sentences between 5 to 12 years. “Blood money,” or compensation to the next-of-kin can be demanded, but the sum for a female victim is half of what is payable if the victim was male.
History of Domestic Violence
Lama's mother Syeda Muhammad Ali had divorced Al Ghamdi after he repeatedly beat her. In her divorce case, the court decreed that she would retain the custody of their child until the girl reached the age of seven. Al Ghamdi has two other children by his second wife.
“The last visit was when I took her to see him in Riyadh where he had moved after he lapsed into a long silence even though Luma was keen on seeing him. The agreement was that she spends only two weeks with him, but after 14 days he refused to let her come back home to me. The last words I heard from her were ‘I love you, mum and I always pray for you.’ Her father often said that he would make her forget all about me,” the mother told Saudi media.
Lama was admitted to hospital on December 25, 2011 in a critical condition with a crushed skull, broken ribs and left arm, broken back, widespread bruises and burns. Riyadh police informed her mother.
“It was such a terrible shock to see her frail body in this tragic state. She remained paralyzed for several months before she passed away,” she said.
There was widespread indignation in Saudi Arabia and across the world when in February 2013 the court set Al Ghamdi free after a period of incarceration that lasted a couple of months, awarding only the payment of “blood money” and time already served as a punishment. The judge in the case suggested that one reading of Islamic law meant a father could not be held fully accountable for the death of his children. Saudi activists began a campaign to oppose the ruling and the hashtag #AnaLama (I Am Lama) was launched. It was later reported that the Saudi royal family intervened and overruled the courts, keeping Al Ghamdi in prison and ordering a fresh trial.
The mother initially refused to consider accepting “blood money” but later said that she would accept blood money due to increasing financial challenges.
“I have three other children [from a previous marriage] and a house to look after and I will need the money,” she said. She had demanded 10 million rials but was awarded 1 million.
Fears that Al Ghamdi would not be given the punishment he deserved because of his religious status caused the Islamic Affairs Ministry to claim that he was not officially an Islamic preacher and denied that he was connected with the Saudi government. In response to the public outrage and international pressure, the Saudi government created a 24-hour hotline to report child abuse and passed a law against domestic violence.
There is no redeeming feature in this tragedy. In a normal world, there would be no question of such a criminal being sentenced to life imprisonment. However, in Saudi Arabia, even the absolute monarchs can only intervene in terms increasing the jail sentence to 8 years instead of a few months. Islamic law will chop off hands and stone women, but not contemplate serious punishment for fathers and husbands for murder. Kill a child if you like, but Islamic law will never change. Worse still, is the Islamic practice that the loss of a child, or any human life period, can be legally "bought off" with money. "Blood money" is common in many Muslim countries. With the deep pockets of Saudi oil tycoons, one will shiver when considering how many murders they can purchase from the state directly..