'Witchcraft' case to be retired
Saudi Arabia's Supreme Court has refused to ratify the death sentence of a Lebanese psychic convicted of practising witchcraft in a case that has outraged international human rights groups.
A three-judge panel said in its ruling on Friday that there was not enough evidence that Ali Sibat's actions harmed others.
The judges ordered the case to be retried in a Medina court and recommended that the sentence be commuted and that Sibat be deported.
The charges in Sibat's case seem to centre on a call-in talk show he hosted on a Lebanese satellite TV station where he would tell fortunes and give advice. His supporters point out that the show was aired from Lebanon, not Saudi Arabia.
He was arrested in May 2008 by the Saudi religious police during a pilgrimage to the holy city of Medina and sentenced to death in November 2009.
In Lebanon, Sibat's wife, Samira Rahmoon, welcomed the Supreme Court's decision but said she will not rest until Sibat is back home with her and their five children.
She said: "Of course I was very happy. A house without a man is worth nothing; we are borrowing money every month just to get bread to eat." "But I am still scared. Unless I see him at Beirut airport with my own eyes I will always be scared for him."
The Saudi justice system, which is based on Islamic law, does not clearly define the charge of witchcraft.
Sibat is one of scores of people reported arrested every year in the kingdom for practising sorcery, witchcraft, black magic and fortune-telling. The deeply religious authorities in Saudi Arabia consider these practices polytheism.
According to Amnesty International, the last known execution on a witchcraft conviction was the 2007 beheading of an Egyptian pharmacist, Mustafa Ibrahim, who was found guilty of casting spells in an attempt to separate a married couple.