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Bill Sampson was beaten, concluded a British doctor who examined
him yesterday in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where the Canadian citizen is
being held without charge in connection with a fatal car bombing.
William Sampson, Mr. Sampson's cousin in Britain, said he received
the results of the medical examination last night.
"It's official that he's been beaten. He has a wedge fracture of the
vertebra, severe bruises to his arms and legs, his feet were badly
beaten and he has superficial scratches to his wrists," he said.
Since his imprisonment in December, Mr. Sampson has twice been
hospitalized for operations to open blocked arteries from his heart.
Canadian authorities demanded an independent examination after he
was hospitalized on May 17 with suspect injuries that the Saudis
attributed to a failed suicide attempt.
The Sampson case, which has dragged on for six months, is
threatening to turn into a diplomatic row. In the House of Commons
yesterday, Monte Solberg, the Canadian Alliance foreign affairs critic,
demanded that Canada protest Mr. Sampson's treatment by
cancelling a visit to Ottawa by Crown Prince Abdullah in June to open
an embassy. He also demanded the recall of Canada's ambassador to
"We have to protest in the strongest possible terms what obviously is
torture," Mr. Solberg said. "I think we should demand his release to
Canadian authorities, given the fact that the Saudis can't guarantee
Denis Paradis, parliamentary undersecretary for foreign affairs,
replied that Ottawa would wait for the medical report before deciding
what to do next. However, a source said Foreign Affairs had the
results in hand yesterday morning.
William Sampson echoed Mr. Solberg's demand for the recall of
Canada's ambassador, and if necessary an end to all Canadian-Saudi
John Manley, Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister, speaking from
Belgrade on a four-day tour of the Balkans, said he was "very
concerned" over reports of the beating.
In a press release issued yesterday afternoon, he said he spoke with
Mohammed Al-Hussaini, the Saudi ambassador to Canada, on May 24
to express shock at the allegations.
"He said he didn't know about it and didn't know Sampson had been
hospitalized," Mr. Manley said. Reached in Ottawa, Mr. Al-Hussaini
denied the allegations of physical abuse.
"It's against our religion, it's against our tradition, we don't do it,"
said. "Our laws don't allow it."
Mr. Manley said he asked the ambassador to ensure that Mr.
Sampson is provided with daily consular access, that he be examined
by a medical professional designated by Canada, that he be allowed
to discuss his condition and situation openly and that the incident be
fully investigated by Saudi authorities, with the results provided to
Mr. Al-Hussaini said he forwarded the requests to the Saudi
Bill Sampson is one of several foreigners being held in connection with
two car bombings in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, in November.
One man was killed and five people were injured in the blasts.
The independent medical examination took place yesterday. Canada's
ambassador to Saudi Arabia also visited Mr. Sampson, but a report
will not be available until later this week, a spokesman for Foreign
John Tackaberry, a spokesman for Amnesty International Canada,
said he was not surprised to learn of the beating.
"There are essentially no safeguards in place to ensure they aren't
extracting information for confessions," he said of the criminal justice
system in the Muslim kingdom.
Canada should protest the treatment of Mr. Sampson in the strongest
possible terms, especially given the fact that Saudi Arabia is a
signatory to the Geneva Convention, which protects the rights of
prisoners, Mr. Tackaberry said.
Since the arrest of the foreigners, there have been several other
bombings in Saudi Arabia. The leader in the U.K. of an Islamic
fundamentalist movement has said he believes the Westerners are
innocent and fundamentalists opposed to any foreign presence in the
Muslim nation are to blame.
Saudi authorities believe the bombings are linked to the illegal liquor
trade in the country.
At the time of his arrest, Mr. Sampson was in Riyadh working for the
Saudi Industrial Development Fund, a Saudi government agency that
provides loans to industrial ventures.
Bill Sampson, 43, was hospitalized on May 17. He is suffering from a crushed
vertebra, trauma to his feet and scratches on his wrists, according to
Martin Mayfield, a doctor and trusted family friend in Britain.
Saudi authorities told the family that Mr. Sampson's injuries resulted
from a suicide
attempt, said Dr. Mayfield. But he does not believe it: "I don't know how a man
could do that to himself in a prison cell," he said.
Carl Schwenger, a Canadian foreign affairs spokesman, confirmed that Mr.
Sampson was transferred to hospital, and today, Canada's ambassador, a
consular representative and a doctor chosen by Canadian authorities will visit
him to assess his injuries.
A well-placed source said Canadian consular officials privately express
concern that Mr. Sampson might have been beaten by his jailers.
Mr. Sampson's cousin, William Sampson, who lives in a suburb of
Liverpool, said yesterday that Bill would never attempt to take his
own life. "There's no way whatsoever that Billy would do this," he
said, adding that he is "absolutely sure" the injuries were a result of
"We are all horrified, considering Saudi Arabia as a country has
signed the Geneva Convention on treatment of prisoners," said
William. "If the United Nations have this Geneva Convention to stop
people from being tortured and Saudi Arabia is a signatory of their
convention and they do not carry out the precepts of this convention
that they have signed, then I feel it's bloody tragic. They are the ones
who signed it. No one coerced the Saudis into signing this."
Mohammed Al-Hussaini, the Saudi ambassador to Canada, could not
be reached for comment. But in a statement issued in February, he
said the foreigners arrested in connection with the bombings would
receive fair trials. "If they are innocents they have nothing to fear,"
Mr. Al-Hussaini said.
Mr. Sampson has lost 20 kilograms since he was imprisoned.
Dr. Mayfield believes the two heart operations Mr. Sampson has
undergone since March could have been caused by the stress of his
imprisonment. Two angioplasties have been performed to open
arteries pumping blood from his heart, although Mr. Sampson had
always been fit and athletic and had no history of heart disease.
Studies on soldiers have shown that a combination of malnutrition
and poor living conditions can induce heart trouble, said Dr. Mayfield.
Mr. Sampson's father, James Sampson, 70, of White Rock, B.C.,
recently returned from a trip to Riyadh to visit his son and settle his
The Saudis allowed him to visit his son twice. Bill Sampson seemed in
strong spirits at the time, his father said then. He declined to
comment on his son's latest injuries.
"It tears your heart out," said Angela Clarke, a family friend in B.C.,
who says the normally cheerful and outgoing Mr. Sampson is showing
the strain of his son's long incarceration. "His friends are all
devastated and praying for the immediate release of his son, Billy."
Mr. Sampson had been in Riyadh working for the Saudi Industrial
Development Fund, a Saudi government agency that provides loans
to industrial ventures.
He has been in custody since December after being accused, along
with several other foreigners working in Riyadh, of participating in two
car bombings last November that killed Christopher Rodway, a British
hospital worker, and injured his wife and four others.
The bombings have been linked to an alleged feud within the
expatriate community in the Saudi capital over the illegal liquor trade.
If convicted, Mr. Sampson could be beheaded under the laws of the
Since the arrest of Mr. Sampson and the other Westerners, there
have been several other bomb attacks in Riyadh.
Amnesty International has singled out Saudi Arabia as part of its
global campaign against torture. The human rights organization says
Saudi Arabia has put to death more than 1,100 people in the past 20
years, using coercion, deception and torture to elicit confessions from
But Ambassador Al-Hussaini said in February that Mr. Sampson's case
will be presented to the High Sharia Court, the High Court of Appeal,
then the Supreme Judicial Council. Finally, experts with the Royal
Court will review the case, and in the event of a conviction, the
Mr. Sampson's televised "confession," which aired on television in
January, will not be evidence against him unless it is repeated in front
of the judges.
"I would once again assert," he said, "that at no stage would the
judicial system in Saudi Arabia pay any attention to any confessions
unless they are given freely and voluntarily in front of the court."
Last December, Bill Sampson, a Canadian citizen working as a
marketing consultant, was arrested in Saudi Arabia, a member of the
United Nations Human Rights Commission. Five months later, he
remains in custody although no charges have been laid against him.
Twelve days ago, Mr. Sampson was admitted to hospital for the third
time. Despite having no previous heart problems, the physically fit
43-year-old man has undergone two cardiac surgeries and lost 20
kilograms while in jail. Even more alarming is the opinion of the
Canadian-appointed doctor who visited Mr. Sampson yesterday that
the crushed vertebra and hand and foot injuries for which he was
taken to hospital are the result of a savage beating.
Although Saudi authorities attribute the injuries to a suicide attempt,
this is little reason to believe them. Aside from the specific evidence of
the doctor in this case, there is the general understanding, for which
human rights groups have amassed a weight of evidence, that
torture is widespread in Saudi prisons, and confessions are routinely
wrung from suspects through its use. Amnesty International is
conducting an anti-torture campaign against Saudi Arabia which, it
says, is a society characterized by "the virtual absence of the rule of
law." Detainees are "held incommunicado and defendants [are]
denied the right of access to a lawyer, the right to a defence, and the
right to appeal."
Canadian consular officials were not permitted to visit Mr. Sampson
until a month after he was arrested and taken into custody, and even
then, contrary to usual international practice, the meeting was
monitored by Saudi officials who would not allow any discussion of Mr.
Sampson's alleged crimes. The Saudi government did not give
Canadian officials any warning before it televised a videotape in
which Mr. Sampson -- along with one British and one Belgian man --
confessed to participating in two November, 2000, car bombings in
Riyadh that killed one person and injured four others. (The video
shows the three haggard, possibly drugged men woodenly reading
from a prepared script. Although they mention no motive, the men
claim on the video to have been acting on instructions from an
unknown third party.)
Despite the warm relations Saudi Arabia has long enjoyed with
Canada, and despite the fact that it has sought our support for its
entry into the World Trade Organization, Saudi officials appear
indifferent to any diplomatic overtures so far undertaken on Mr.
Sampson's behalf. Under both Canadian and Saudi Arabian law, Mr.
Sampson remains innocent of any crime; he has not even been
charged, let alone convicted.
The fact that he has been beaten -- let us not mince words, it is
torture -- is an outrage that brings shame upon Saudi Arabia. More
important, it is a cause of grave concern in Canada, and should spark
immediate action by Ottawa. The highest duty of civilized democratic
government is to protect its citizens. This duty does not stop at
Canada's borders. Ottawa must step in, determinedly and effectively,
to prevent any further mistreatment of Mr. Sampson by the Saudis.
Jean Chrétien's government must use all diplomatic means at its
disposal to persuade and if necessary compel Riyadh to treat this
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