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From The News...
Second Canadian arrested
in Saudi bombings,
diplomat says Foreign Affairs checking
The Associated Press and the National Post - February 21, 2001
RIYADH - The Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs officials are
investigating a report that a second Canadian has been arrested in Saudi
Arabia on suspicion of involvement in bombings that killed a Briton late last
The report yesterday, from a diplomat who asked to remain anonymous, did
not contain details on the arrest. The diplomat also declined to identify the
Reynald Doiron, a Foreign Affairs spokesman in Ottawa, said that a similar
rumour had been circulating until last week, but was proven unfounded.
"We had been given a name," said Mr. Doiron. "The Canadian was located
and he was rather surprised, thank you.
"We don't know, regarding this story today, whether it's the same rumour
that has been rolled over or it's a totally separate situation.
"Not to take any chances, we're running it by high officials in the Saudi
Ministry of the Interior."
Two bombings in Riyadh and one in the eastern city Khobar killed a British
man and wounded five other Britons between Nov. 17 and Dec. 15.
Canadian William James Sampson, 42, a long-time resident of Britain who
has family in British Columbia, has been held by Saudi authorities since Dec.
Besides Mr. Sampson, who worked for a Saudi industrial development
agency, a Briton, a Belgian and four Americans have also been detained in
Mr. Sampson, along with Alexander Mitchell of Britain and Raf Schifter
Belgium, were shown on Saudi TV this month in an appearance in which all
three confessed to the bombings.
Canadian embassy staff in Riyadh were unable to confirm the report of a
second Canadian being arrested.
"We've no information; that's totally news to us," an embassy spokesman
said when contracted after the arrest was reported.
Neither the suspects nor Saudi officials have given a motive for the
bombings. Convicted murderers in Saudi Arabia are publicly beheaded,
although the victim's family can spare the convict's life or ask for money in
exchange for clemency.
No charges have been laid and a trial date has not been set.
The Canadian ambassador in Riyadh met with Prince Nayef, the Saudi
Interior Minister, late last night to discuss the case against William Sampson,
one of three Westerners who made dramatic televised confessions to the
bombings last week.
Among the topics discussed at the late-night meeting were regular consular
access to Mr. Sampson, legal representation, and a sense of how the case
Reynald Doiron, a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs, said
Interior Minister promised that Canadian authorities would soon be allowed
to visit Mr. Sampson in custody.
Mr. Sampson, a 42-year-old in Riyadh working for the Saudi Industrial
Development Fund, has been in custody since mid-December. Canadian
authorities met with him when they first learned of his arrest last month, but
have not been granted access since he appeared on Saudi television
confessing to the bombings.
Mr. Doiron said the Saudi minister said legal representation was not possible
for Mr. Sampson "at this stage of the investigation," but that once the
investigation stage was over, the Canadian would be free to seek legal help.
NEW YORK - A second Canadian may be under investigation by Saudi
Arabian authorities probing a spate of bombings which left one British
expatriate worker dead in the kingdom, it emerged last night.
Sources linked to the expatriate community in Riyadh, capital of Saudi
Arabia, said yesterday that a man named William James had been arrested
and questioned in connection with an alcohol smuggling ring believed linked
to the bombings.
The authorities later released the man on condition he not leave the country,
according to the sources.
Canadian Foreign Affairs officials last night said they had "no information"
whether the Saudis had involved any Canadian other than William Sampson,
42, in the investigation.
Mr. Sampson and a British man appeared on Saudi television last Sunday
and admitted they detonated a car bomb that killed a Briton and injured his
wife on Dec. 17. The pair and a Belgian worker implicated themselves in a
Nov. 22 blast, which injured three Britons and an Irish woman.
Questions have been raised about whether the confessions were staged, but
if convicted under Saudi Arabia's shariah (Islamic) law, Mr. Sampson and the
British man could be beheaded in public.
Melvyn MacDonald, Canada's ambassador to Saudi Arabia, will today meet
with the Saudi Vice-Foreign Minister to "raise the question" of visiting Mr.
Sampson, said a Foreign Affairs spokesman.
Saudi authorities have allowed Canadian embassy staff to see him only once
since his arrest -- on Jan 27.
Nine expatriate workers are in custody following the bomb attacks, which
included a December blast that injured a Scottish Coca-Cola sales manager.
Most, if not all, are linked in some way to expatriate drinking houses,
are illegal in Saudi Arabia, a Muslim country where alcohol is banned.
Some expatriate sources believe the bombings are linked to a turf war over
the alcohol trafficking, which may be worth as much as US$1-billion a year.
While illicit bars have existed for years, the explosions set off alarm
authorities in Saudi Arabia, where the crime rate is low.
David Mornin, a Scot among the nine arrested, ran the Celtic Club, one
the more exclusive drinking establishments in Riyadh.
Helping him was Kelvin Hawkins, his father-in-law, who is also under arrest.
Two patrons among the nine were Michael Sedlak, an American, and Paul
Moss, of Merseyside, England.
An expatriate source who knows all four yesterday described the club. "It
was in a walled compound containing about 20 aluminum residences for
expatriates," said the source. "One had been converted to the club. You
would walk in through a nondescript door, and inside you would have bar
mats, and Guinness signs, and television with British football. It would be as
smoky as can be -- just like a pub."
On tap was homemade beer and wine, but brand-name suds and spirits were
available for a price.
"A case of Budweiser cost around [US]$150, the same for a bottle of Johnny
Walker," said the source, who identified one of the nine as a "big supplier."
Expressing shock about the bombings, the source said, "I think the business
is huge, just like in the U.S. at the time of prohibition. I can't imagine Dave
Mornin is capable of anything like this. There was an instance when a rival
pub opened on the compound, and they said, 'We are going to do something
about this.' But I never sensed that anything murderous could happen."
The source said about a half- dozen similar clubs exist in Riyadh at any
time, though they come and go as they are raided by authorities.
Membership fees were around US$50 for the Celtic Club and US$15 for the
Empire Club. "You could just about walk in off the street to Shenanigans,
while Tudor Rose was the most exclusive," the source said.
VANCOUVER - The father of a Canadian man facing the death penalty in
Saudi Arabia is beside himself with worry over his son, friends and
neighbours said yesterday.
"He's just sick over all this, he's not feeling well," said a woman who
answered the bell at James Sampson's home in a three-storey condominium
complex in White Rock, one hour south of Vancouver.
Mr. Sampson's son, William Sampson, 42, is one of nine foreigners being
detained in a Saudi prison on suspicion of planting car bombs that killed one
man and injured five other people in Riyadh, the capital, in November.
Under Islamic law, William Sampson could be beheaded in public if found
A neighbour of Mr. Sampson said his son recently visited his father in
Columbia. Mr. Sampson, a former Royal Air Force pilot who later flew for Air
Canada, also had been to visit his son in Saudi Arabia within the past year.
"William showed him the country and vicinity," said Robert Beattie.
Other neighbours said Mr. Sampson often travels to Asia and has taught
English in Japan. They believe he may have been in France when news that
his son confessed to car bombings in Saudi Arabia broke.
Saudi television aired the confessions by William Sampson and Alexander
Mitchell, a British citizen, this week. Relatives in Britain said they believe Mr.
Sampson, who was working for the Saudi Industrial Development Fund in
Riyadh, had been forced into his confession.
"He looked like he hadn't slept for a month. He's an intelligent man, he
enough money so he doesn't need to get involved in this," said his cousin,
also named William, who lives in Merseyside.
"The gaunt stare, coupled with the fact that they showed no emotion in
they're saying leads me to believe that they have been drugged and are not
aware of what's going on."
The cousin said James Sampson served in the RAF before retiring to work
Air Canada. The family moved to Canada and then Singapore before William
returned to the U.K. to study, completing a degree in biochemistry in England
and an MBA in Edinburgh.
Melvyn MacDonald, the Canadian ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said the
matter remains under investigation and his staff has met with William
Sampson. "But we still haven't gained regular access."
Mr. MacDonald said no charges have been laid yet, despite the confession.
Reports in the Saudi press say the men were involved in a feud over a
lucrative trade among expatriate workers in illicit whisky. But Stephen
Jakobi, the executive director of London-based Fair Trial Abroad, an
organization that fights for the rights of European citizens outside their own
countries, said yesterday the Saudi government may be looking for
"I think basically it would do everybody a great deal of good to realize
just because confessions have appeared on television doesn't mean to say
that things are as they seem," Mr. Jakobi said from London.
Fair Trial Abroad helped free two British nurses who were convicted in
Arabia for the murder of an Australian woman in 1996.
Mr. Jakobi said he had been asked by members of the Sampson family in
Britain and relatives of Mr. Mitchell to petition on the men's behalf. Mr.
Mitchell, originally from the Glasgow area, worked as a technician in the
anesthesia department at a military hospital in Riyadh.
Mr. Jakobi said British officials met with Mr. Mitchell a week before the
televised confession. At that time, Mr. Mitchell was being detained on charges
relating to the sale of liquor, which is illegal in Saudi Arabia. No mention was
made by anyone of murder charges.
"When Saudis want a particular story told, they grab the people involved
or not involved, as the case may be -- hold them for long periods of time,
subject them to threats, promises, relay interrogation and keep on
presenting to them different forms of the story until the story is signed the
way they want it to come out," Mr. Jakobi said.
Ali Alahmed, executive director of the Saudi Institute in Washington, D.C.,
said yesterday that the Saudi press is calling for blood in this case.
"It doesn't look good for those people because of the way this whole thing
unravelling," Mr. Alahmed said.
English relatives of William Sampson, the
Canadian facing execution in Saudi Arabia for
allegedly planting a car bomb that killed a
man last year, say Mr. Sampson appeared to
be drugged when he was shown on television
confessing to the crime.
The Express, a British newspaper, reported
yesterday Mr. Sampson's cousin -- also called
William Sampson -- said relatives in Britain
had no idea Mr. Sampson had been arrested.
He said the family fears the confession was
forced out of him.
"When we saw him on television it came as a
complete shock," said the cousin, who lives in
Merseyside, England. "We did not even realize
he was being held. He looked drugged and brainwashed. We fear for his
health and his life."
Officials at Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs say Mr. Sampson entered
Saudi Arabia on a Canadian passport. They say they have been in close
contact with members of his family in Canada since news of his arrest first
reached consular officials in Ottawa in January.
Mr. Sampson, 42, remains mostly a mystery, however, because his
Canadian relatives have asked Foreign Affairs not to disclose information
about him or his family.
Reports say he has relatives in British Columbia, is unmarried, and holds
doctorate in economics. Canadian universities that offer PhD level programs
in economics have no record of Mr. Sampson.
His English cousin says Mr. Sampson spent much of his life in Britain before
finding a job in the Middle East.
Mr. Sampson was a member of Saudi Arabia's community of skilled
expatriate workers, and was employed as a marketing director at the Saudi
Investment Development Fund, a government agency.
In Riyadh, the Saudi capital, however, Mr. Sampson's co-workers insist
did not know him, despite the fact he worked at the Investment
Development Fund for about five years.
Little else has been revealed about Mr. Sampson, other than the image of
weary face, broadcast this week on Saudi television confessing to his role in
the murder of a fellow expatriate.
Mr. Sampson has been detained with at least eight other foreigners accused
by local authorities of participating in the planting of a car bomb that killed
Briton Christopher Rodway in Riyadh last November.
Mr. Sampson, Alexander
Mitchell, a British citizen, and a Belgian man were
all shown on state-run television admitting to two car explosions that killed
Mr. Rodway and injured a total of five other people. Under Islamic law, the
three foreigners could be beheaded in public if found guilty by the Saudi
Reports out of Riyadh say the men were involved in a feud over a lucrative
trade among expatriate workers in illicit whisky. The reports say all were
members of, or shareholders in, a series of drinking dens in Riyadh -- called
Celtic Corner, Woodlands, Raffles and the Empire Club.
Alcohol is forbidden in Saudi Arabia, but authorities tolerate its discreet
within the expatriate community.
Mr. Mitchell, a Scot, worked with Mr. Rodway at the Internal Security Hospital
Mr. Mitchell's Thai wife, Noi, has said from Riyadh her husband is "a good
man and a good father. He could never hurt someone, he just wants to help
Anne Marie Owens and Jonathon Gatehouse
National Post, with files from Southam News
Canada's ambassador to Saudi Arabia has denied a newspaper report
quoting him as praising the country's judicial system -- as a Canadian faces
public beheading for a deadly car bombing.
Melvyn MacDonald has called the editor of the Riyadh's daily newspaper
protest the story and has reported the episode to the Department of Foreign
Affairs in Ottawa.
The story was headlined "Ambassador of Canada lauds and commends
justice in the Kingdom and the treatment of the Canadian citizen involved in
the two bombings in Riyadh."
It appeared two days after Canadian William Sampson, 42, was shown on
Saudi television apparently confessing to planting a November car bombing
that killed one man.
The newspaper said Mr. MacDonald claimed Mr. Sampson had told embassy
staff who visited him on Jan. 24 that the Saudis were treating him well and
that his trial is "just and fair."
The paper also quoted the ambassador as being surprised at such an act
being committed by a Canadian.
"Ambassador MacDonald noted that criminal acts are unusual to the
Canadian society which does not allow such acts. The ambassador also
expressed surprise over such acts which shake the feelings of lovers of
peace. The ambassador also added that the news of the involvement of a
Canadian citizen was a surprise to him," the story said.
But Foreign Affairs spokesman Reynald Doiron said: "He never gave the
interview, never met the reporter, never talked to him, and never made
those comments. In any event, he would never make those comments. It's
not his place or position to make such comments."
Mr. Sampson, a marketing director at the Saudi Investment Development
Fund, a well-known business development agency linked to that
government's finance department, and a Briton, Alexander Mitchell, are
accused of planting a car bomb that killed Christopher Rodway.
They are also alleged to have been involved with a Belgian in another car
bombing that is said to involve rival bootlegging operations.
Canadian officials in Riyadh have been unable to see Mr. Sampson since
Sunday and say they are unable to determine whether his televised
confession was real or forced.
Yesterday, a British couple who became close friends with Mr. Mitchell
their time in Riyadh, said they do not believe the confession of their former
Susan Stoiles, a British nurse and her husband, Jack, an operating room
technician, said the jovial, outgoing man they know bears little resemblance
to the drawn, haggard figure who appeared on their TV screen.
"I can't believe that Alex would get involved in anything like that," said
Stoiles from the couple's Manchester home. "It was obvious from his
demeanour on TV that he was reading from a prepared statement."
Mrs. Stoiles described the cloistered lifestyle of foreigners in the Saudi
capital as revolving around illicit alcohol.
"It was well known that we all brewed -- we all made beer and wine," she
said. "It was only the embassies that had the real stuff."
They are called "chop squares" and in 1999 at least 103 people lost their
heads on one.
Saudi Arabia's strict shariah law calls for the death penalty -- by beheading
-- for murder, rape, armed robbery, drug smuggling, witchcraft and
converting to a religion other than Islam. Yesterday, Saudi Arabia said the
penalty would be imposed on Canadian William Sampson if he is convicted of
the bombing death of a British man in November.
The executions are carried out in public, using a sword. Usually they take
place on Fridays, though recently the kingdom's executioners have been
kept so busy other days have had to be added to the execution calendar.
They take place outside mosques across Saudi Arabia, after the morning's
obligatory prayers, in order to provide the maximum shaming for the
victims. The atmosphere is one of spectacle, with everyone encouraged to
Women are executed, so are any youths old enough to have gone through
puberty. A large proportion of those killed are foreigners.
The kingdom has been following the "path" (the literal meaning of shariah)
since 1932, long before nations such as Nigeria and Afghanistan decided to
adopt Islamic law.
Shariah is derived from the Qur'an, the holy book of Islam, and the Sunna,
the teaching and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad. It also incorporates the
consensus of the Ulema (religious scholars) and legal analogy.
Crimes against the person are covered in the section of the law known as
Quesas (the other section encompasses worship and ritual duties). These
crimes include varying degrees of murder and assault.
Public execution is the mandated punishment for murder, with the family
the victim being allowed to take part, striking a "death blow" against the
perpetrator. However, the family also has the right to waive punishment
altogether or ask for diya, blood money.
This is what happened in the case of Lucille McLauchlin and Deborah Parry,
two British nurses convicted of murdering a colleague in 1998 and looting her
bank account. Their sentences were commuted and they were allowed to
return home after the diya was paid.
Their case attracted international diplomatic and media attention. Many
the foreigners executed do not have this advantage, nor do ordinary Saudis.
Saudi officials say the country's laws are fair and allow suspects all
International human rights organizations say prisoners in the kingdom are
routinely held incommunicado and prevented from contacting relatives or
lawyers. They are also maltreated while in custody.
Amnesty International quotes the case of Roger Cortez, a Filipino who was
arrested on murder charges and held in jail for two years. His interrogators
slapped his ears and pushed his face against the wall, says a report by the
human rights organization. He was also beaten and kicked while wearing
handcuffs and shackles, and threatened with a baseball bat.
The precise nature of the charges against him and his sentence were
unclear. Eventually he was released, after receiving 250 lashes.
At least 103 people were executed in 1999 (the latest year for which figures
The executions were for various crimes including murder, rape and drug
smuggling. More than half -- 64-- of those executed were foreigners,
including 15 from Pakistan and 10 from Nigeria. At least three women, all
Nigerians, suffered the death penalty.
Mohammad bin Abdullah al-Hajji was one of the lucky ones. The 70-year-old
Saudi was condemned to death for murder and was to be executed in
He was actually being led out to face the executioner when his victim's
sons pardoned him.
The man who may ultimately have the power of life and death over a
Canadian accused in a car bombing in Saudi Arabia yesterday called for the
death penalty in the case.
Under Islamic law, Jerry Rodway, whose son Christopher was killed in the
blast last year, could have the final say on the fate of the men who have
confessed to the fatal attack, including Canadian William Sampson.
"You can't go around blasting people to bits and get away with it. All
I want is
the perpetrators to be brought to justice and to suffer, and not be allowed to
live anymore," Mr. Rodway said from his home in Salisbury, England.
"My feelings have always been for the death penalty ... Certain countries
have certain ways of doing things. I've always believed in an eye for an eye,
a tooth for a tooth."
Under Islamic law, or shariah, convicted murderers are publicly beheaded
Saudi Arabia. However, it is up to the victim's family to demand an
execution, spare the life of the murderers, or ask for blood money in
exchange for freedom.
Mr. Sampson, 42, a Canadian economist, and Alexander
Mitchell, an English
hospital worker, were shown on Saudi television on Sunday confessing to the
killing of Christopher Rodway.
Mr. Sampson, who is single and lives alone in Riyadh, has been working
the city for about five years as a marketing consultant for the Saudi
Industrial Development Fund, which provides loans to industrial ventures.
Canada has expressed concern over a three-week delay between the arrest
of Mr. Sampson and his receiving a visit from Canadian diplomats in Riyadh.
Denis Paradis, parliamentary secretary to John Manley, the Minister of
Foreign Affairs, told the House of Commons: "We have impressed the Saudi
authorities, both here and in Riyadh, with the need to respect international
norms in terms of consular access and treatment of detention."
Mr. Sampson has been in prison since mid-December, but Canadian
authorities only learned of his arrest early last month. Consular officials met
with Mr. Sampson on Jan. 27 and were taken by surprise by the televised
"Concern has been expressed over the delay between the arrest and the
first consular access," said Reynald Doiron of Foreign Affairs. "To the best of
our knowledge, he has not been charged."
Mr. Sampson appeared nervous as he made the confession on Saudi
television. He and Mr. Mitchell, together with a Belgian man, took turns sitting
behind a desk and explaining how they planted explosives in cars and
detonated them by remote control.
Mr. Mitchell said he and Mr. Sampson carried out the bombing on Nov. 17
that killed Mr. Rodway, described as the chief anaesthetist at the military
hospital in Riyadh, and injured his wife.
Mr. Mitchell said he and Mr. Sampson followed the vehicle to a main
thoroughfare and then Mr. Sampson detonated the explosive. The Belgian
man, identified by Belgian media as Raf Skivens or Stevens, said he joined
them in a similar car bombing five days later that injured several foreigners.
Saudi authorities have maintained the motive for the bombings was
personal, not political.
One of the links between all of the accused men and the victims is believed
to be that they all frequented an illegal bar called the Celtic Club.
Saudi police, who allegedly found two cases of whisky in a car, have
suggested the bombings may have been sparked by rivalries within the
expatriate English-speaking community in Riyadh.
Police also investigated Michael Sedlak, an American who worked for Vinnell
Corp., a company that uses former U.S. army officers to train the Saudi
National Guard and is believed to have links with the Central Intelligence
Agency. James Baker III, former U.S. secretary of state, was a partner in
John Tackaberry, a spokesman for Amnesty International Canada, said the
Saudi Arabian justice system suffers from serious flaws, including its reliance
on confessions that are often coerced.
"The criminal justice system there puts inordinate emphasis on people
confessing. And often they are extracted under torture," he said. The country
often uses public confessions in high-profile incidents to convince the
populace the crime has been solved, he said.
Christopher Rodway's father conceded the televised confessions seemed "a
little bit weird," and said it was disturbing for him to watch the men explain
how they detonated the car that killed his son.
A Canadian economics graduate working in
Saudi Arabia made a televised confession
yesterday to being involved in two bombings
last year that killed a British hospital worker
and injured several others.
William Sampson, who has a PhD in
economics and was working as a marketing
consultant for the Saudi Industrial
Development Fund, was one of three
foreigners who appeared on Saudi television
yesterday, nervously confessing to the highly
publicized car bombings in November.
"I confirm and confess that I received orders
to carry out the bombing here in Riyadh on
Nov. 17 against Christopher Rodway, a British
citizen," said a man who identified himself as
Alexander Mitchell, from Britain. "William
Sampson, a Canadian, helped me carry out
the bombing," Mr. Mitchell said, according to
an Arabic voiceover of his remarks.
Mr. Sampson was quoted as saying, "Mitchell
asked me to prepare a second explosion with
the help of Raf Skivens, a Belgian. The date
of this explosion was set for Wednesday, Nov.
A spokesman for Canada's Foreign Affairs
Department confirmed that Mr. Sampson, 42,
was arrested for his involvement in the
bombings and has been in custody since
Consular officials met with Mr. Sampson for
the first time last week, said Ossanah Tamim,
a spokesman for Foreign Affairs, who said Mr.
Sampson's family has not allowed authorities
to reveal more details.
Canada's ambassador to Saudi Arabia said he will pursue the allegations.
Foreign Affairs officials declined to speculate on how much plausibility
attach to the televised confessions or whether Saudi Arabian authorities
might have orchestrated them.
According to the confessions, the initial car bombing, which killed Mr.
and injured his wife, was carried out by Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Sampson.
Mr. Skivens said he joined them in the Nov. 22 bombing, which injured four
foreign workers, after overhearing the two men discuss the first blast. In all,
at least nine foreigners have been implicated in the attacks.
The men described how they planted the explosives in the two cars and used
remote control devices to detonate them. They did not say who ordered the
The confessions are the latest dramatic turn in a story that has implicated
people from the United States, Canada, England, Scotland and Lebanon, and
shocked the closely-knit community of foreigners in the Saudi Arabian
At about 1:20 p.m. on Nov. 17, a bomb lifted and tore apart the vehicle
being driven by the Rodways through the centre of the commercial district.
Mr. Rodway, a 47-year-old technician working at the Royal Military Hospital
in Riyadh, was killed instantly. His wife, Jane, 50, was treated for superficial
injuries. The couple had been living in Saudi Arabia for eight years.
The bombing, which police said was caused by a device planted aboard the
vehicle and destroyed in the midday blast, came just hours before Crown
Prince Abdullah was to open a global oil conference in the city attended by
the American secretary of energy and powerful representatives of more than
40 oil-producing and consuming countries.
On Nov. 22, an English couple and an Irish woman were injured in another
car bombing in the capital. Three weeks later, a car bombing in the city of
al-Khobar left a Scottish man blind in one eye.
At first, the bombings were put down to the anger of extremists about the
increasing presence of Westerners, who are often seen as a corrupting
influence in Saudi Arabia, and those angry about Western support for Israel.
Before long, however, there were rumours about a personally motivated plot
involving illicit alcohol, sex and betrayal.
Michael Sedlak, the American arrested as the prime suspect in the scheme,
is alleged to have been involved in a liquor-smuggling plot and an altercation
with one of the accused British men over an affair with a married woman.
A Saudi legal report alleges Mr. Rodway knew about the alcohol smuggling
activities and threatened to inform the authorities.
Prince Nayef, the Saudi Interior Minister, said nine people "from different
nationalities" were under arrest for illegal activities and were still being
Before the confessions were aired, he said yesterday that the kingdom was
aware of who may have been behind the bombings and provided the
"I would like to assert that the source of the explosives and many other
is known to us, but for the interest of the investigation we decided not to
reveal that now," Prince Nayef said on Saudi Arabian television.
Canadian man faces beheading if convicted
Admission of role in Saudi bombings may have been coerced,
rights activists say By: ALAN FREEMAN AND STEPHANIE NOLEN
With reports from Reuters and Associated Press
Tuesday, February 6, 2001
LONDON and TORONTO -- A Canadian in
prison in Saudi Arabia could face public
beheading if he is convicted of playing a role in
a bombing that killed another expatriate worker
in the kingdom, the Saudi Interior Minister said
William Sampson, 42, an economist working
as a marketing consultant in Riyadh, appeared
on Saudi television Sunday night and gave a
stilted confession to placing a bomb in the car
of Briton Christopher Rodway in November.
The men will be subject to Islamic law, Prince
Nayef, the Saudi official, insisted.
"Do we have anything other than sharia? We
don't have a judicial system other than sharia,"
the minister, he said in an interview with a
Saudi newspaper published yesterday.
Islamic law, called sharia in Arabic, sets out a
code of punishments that includes execution,
often by public beheading, of convicted
murderers, rapists and drug smugglers.
Adulterers are stoned to death, while thieves
have their hands amputated.
A Canadian government spokesman said Mr.
Sampson was arrested in mid-December, along
with a Briton and a Belgian.
"We had some difficulties in getting consular
access, but that was finally granted last week,"
said Reynald Doiron, a spokesman for the
Department of Foreign Affairs and
International Trade. But the Canadian embassy
learned of his confession "like the rest of the
world" when the men were shown on
television, he said.
Officials from Canada, Britain and Belgium
hastened to express concern to Saudi
authorities after the televised confession.
"We've made it known to Riyadh and the
authorities here in Ottawa . . . that this is a
Canadian and [he] should be treated according
to our values," said Denis Paradis,
parliamentary undersecretary for foreign
affairs. Canada's ambassador in Riyadh will
see Mr. Sampson by the end of the week and
then file a report, he added.
Little has been made public about Mr.
Sampson, who is reportedly single and living in
Saudi Arabia on his own. Mr. Doiron said
Foreign Affairs is in contact with his family in
Mr. Sampson was reportedly working as a
marketing consultant with the Saudi Industrial
Development Fund, a government agency that
provides loans for industrial ventures. He had
worked there for about five years.
Human-rights organizations expressed concern
for the welfare for the three men after their
television appearance, in which they appeared
nervous and under considerable stress.
"Secrecy, torture and unfair trials are the
hallmarks of Saudi justice," said Richard
Bunting, a spokesman for Amnesty
International U.K. "Foreign workers, especially
from developing countries, are particularly
Amnesty International is concerned that all
three accused had been held for long periods
of time without access to lawyers or their
respective embassies, Mr. Bunting said.
John Tackaberry, a spokesman for Amnesty's
Canadian wing, also noted that the Saudis have
"a past record of coercing people into giving
Mr. Sampson delivered his confession in an
unemotional tone, as if he had memorized it.
"I detonated an explosive device using a
remote-control switch. Mr. Mitchell and I then
headed south," he said in English.
Mitchell said he and Mr.
Sampson carried out the bombing that killed
Mr. Rodway and injured his wife. Mr. Mitchell
said he was involved, with Mr. Sampson and
the Belgian, in a second bombing a week later,
injuring three Britons and an Irish woman.
The men said they had received orders to
carry out the bombings, but did not say who
gave the orders or why. Prince Nayef said the
explosives used were smuggled into the
kingdom and assembled by experts. He
provided no further details.
Mr. Sampson, a bearded man with blondish
hair, was seated at a desk while he made the
confession. He looked to be in good physical
Stephen Jakobi, chairman and founder of Fair
Trials Abroad, which lobbies on behalf of
Europeans arrested abroad, said all signs point
to the men being intimidated into confessing to
crimes they did not commit.
"They all looked a bit glassy-eyed," Mr. Jakobi
said. "The stiltedness, the general sort of
hesitation and reading from prepared scripts
reminded me of the [Persian] gulf war
episodes when Allied pilots appeared on Iraqi
TV and when they came back, we knew they
had been tortured and brainwashed."
Mr. Jakobi said he expects the men were
subject to long, tag-team interrogations and
were presented with a series of promises and
threats if they confessed.
Arresting Europeans for the killing of Mr.
Rodway in November is "terribly convenient"
for the Saudi government, and a much more
desirable outcome than finding that the incident
was the act of Saudi terrorists determined to
reduce Western influence in the kingdom, he
VANCOUVER - The mother of a Canadian man facing the death penalty
in Saudi Arabia for a car bombing says she would do anything to help
her son out of his troubles.
"I would turn myself inside out to help him. I don't know what else to
say," Barbara Sampson said yesterday from her home in Vancouver.
"I love him with all my heart and would do anything in the world to
help him. That's all I feel free to say."
Mrs. Sampson was emotional about the plight of her son and
overwhelmed by her inability to help. She burst into tears outside her
home yesterday when asked about her son.
William Sampson is one of a group of foreigners implicated in car
bombings that killed one and injured five in November.
Mr. Sampson, who is 42 and had been living in Riyadh while working
for the Saudi Industrial Development Fund, appeared on Saudi
television last week making a nervous confession to the bombings.
In the confession, Mr. Sampson and a Briton admitted to carrying out
the bombing that killed Christopher Rodway, a British hospital worker,
and injured his wife. The two men and a Belgian man said they were
involved in a second blast that injured three Britons and an Irish
Under Saudi law, Mr. Sampson could be publicly beheaded if
Mrs. Sampson, who has been divorced from her son's father for a long
time, had not seen her son since he was 17. She apparently learned
of her son's arrest from watching the news reports of his confession
She has since been in contact with the federal Department of Foreign
James Sampson, her former husband and Mr. Sampson's father, lives
in White Rock, B.C., and has visited his son in Saudi Arabia.
The family lived in Vancouver when Mr. Sampson was young and sent
him to St. George's School, a prestigious private school for boys in the
city. It is strongly academic and university oriented with strict entry
Beside his graduation photo in the 1976 issue of The Georgian, the
school's yearbook, Mr. Sampson indicated his interests as "army,
reading, living," and said his ambition was either medicine or the
His teenage idols were Otto von Bismarck, considered to be the
founder of the German empire; Winston Churchill, the wartime British
prime minister; and Evelyn Waugh, the satirical English writer best
known for Brideshead Revisited.
Mrs. Sampson was concerned about the consequences of speaking
out on her son's situation in Saudi Arabia and declined further
Relatives of the family in England said they believe Mr. Sampson was
forced into making his confession.
The Canadian ambassador to Saudi Arabia met with Saudi officials
over the weekend to stress the concern that Mr. Sampson be dealt
with in a civilized manner.
Prince Nayef, the country's Interior Minister, promised consular
officials they would be allowed a visit with Mr. Sampson very soon.
Mr. Sampson has been in custody since mid-December. Canadian
embassy officials met with him shortly after learning of his arrest in
January but have been unable to see him since his televised
Salah Al-Hejailan, a Saudi lawyer who represented two British nurses
who escaped the death penalty after they were convicted for the
murder of an Australian woman in the kingdom, said his firm would be
happy to take on the case of the Westerners implicated in the
He said the televised confessions are unusual. He also said that even
if the case "appears to be undefendable, there are always ways of
asking for mercy and consideration and lenient punishment."
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