Saudi Arabia
UK government says Saudi Arabia cutting man\'s spinal cord is \"grotesque\".

The British government has condemned authorities in Saudi Arabia for their plans to cut the spinal cord of a prisoner to ensure an 'eye-for-an-eye' punishment.

A court in Riyadh has reportedly decreed that Ali al-Khawahir, who paralysed his best friend when he was 14 after stabbing him in the backbone, should himself be surgically paralysed.

Al-Khawahir will be spared paralysis only if his family pays his victim one million riyals (£180,000) in compensation.

The UK's foreign and commonwealth office said the ruling was "grotesque" and expressed "deep concern" for the sentence.

A spokesperson from the FCO said: "We are deeply concerned by reports that a Saudi Arabian court has sentenced a man to be paralysed in retribution for causing the paralysis of a friend when he was 14 years old.

"We urge the Saudi authorities to ensure that this grotesque punishment is not carried out. Such practices are prohibited under international law and have no place in any society."

Al-Khawahir has been in prison since he attacked his friend 10 years ago.

Eye gouging and tooth extraction

His punishment has also been condemned by Amnesty International, which said the sentence was "utterly shocking" and should not be carried out on any account.

Ann Harrison, Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa deputy director, said: "Paralysing someone as punishment for a crime would be torture. That such a punishment might be implemented is utterly shocking, even in a context where flogging is frequently imposed as a punishment for some offences, as happens in Saudi Arabia."

A similar sentence of paralysis was handed out in Saudi in 2010 but it is now known if it was carried out.

"It is time the authorities in Saudi Arabia start respecting their international legal obligations and remove these terrible punishments from the law," Harrison added.

Corporal punishment is widespread in the country, with flogging a mandatory sentence for many offences. Amputation is also enforced for certain crimes; the right hand is often taken for theft, while one hand and one foot are taken for 'highway robbery'.

Other cases of 'retribution', which Al-Khawahir's case falls under, include eye gouging, tooth extraction or death.

According to Human Rights Watch, at least 69 people were executed in Saudi Arabia from January to September 2012, for a range of offences from murder to witchcraft - indeed a man was executed in the southern town of Najran for being a sorcerer.

Lashing is also carried out as the main or additional punishment for a wide range of offences, and can be imposed on men, women and juveniles. In 2011 a 13-year-old school girl convicted of assaulting a teacher was sentenced to 90 lashes, carried out in front of her classmates.

Read more: Execution Central: Saudi Arabia's Bloody Chop-Chop Square.