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Correspondent Sunday, 24 November, 2002, 01:38 GMT
Saudi Arabia: State of denial
The face of a torturer?
Ron Jones claims this is the face of his torturer
John Sweeney

Two westerners are incarcerated in a Saudi Arabian jail and face beheading. Five other westerners are in the same jail - although questions surround the safety of their convictions for planting bombs. In Correspondent's "Saudi Arabia: State of denial", John Sweeney examines evidence that an eighth detainee was tortured.

Two sets of torture experts, in London and Copenhagen, gave their professional opinions.

Using ultrasound technology and painstaking corroborative evidence, they are sure that Scottish accountant Ron Jones was repeatedly beaten on the palms and soles of his feet while in detention in Saudi Arabia.

Ron's feet
Painstaking corroborative evidence was taken
This agonizing torture is known as falanga.

In the light of this evidence, there is a possibility that seven other westerners - five Britons, a Belgian and a Canadian - who confessed to planting bombs killing and maiming other westerners - have also been tortured.

Jones told me: "I would hear the screams of people upstairs being tortured.

"And that was awful because you knew what they were going through. You knew that it was your turn next, your turn would come to be back in that room."

Some of those screams may have come from the other westerners.

A woman behind the burka
Much of Saudi Arabia is shrouded behind a burka of obscurity
Many suspect the real bombers are Saudi Islamic extremists loyal to the Saudi-born Osama Bin Laden. He has pledged to kill "Jews and Crusaders" .

But the ruling House of Saud is afraid to admit that it is losing its absolute control over the oil-rich kingdom.

Unless they win an appeal, two of the westerners - Sandy Mitchell from Scotland and Canadian Bill Sampson - face public beheading in Riyadh's infamous Chop-chop Square.

Bombings

The first of 11 bombs, solely targeted at westerners, exploded two years ago on 17 November, 2000, killing Briton Christopher Rodway.

Defence lawyer
The defence lawyers state in the appeal that torture was administered
No one was arrested.

A second car bomb exploded a few days later injuring four nurses, from Britain and Ireland.

Belgian paramedic, Raf Schyvens, was travelling in a second car and immediately gave first aid to his injured friends. The Saudi secret police arrested Schyvens.

Schyvens' only evidential link with the bomb was that he treated its victims, Mitchell and Sampson.

All three were members of the same drinking club in Saudi - illegal, but not murderous.

The bombs continued, and four more men, all British and all illegal drinkers were arrested. They are James Lee, James Cottle, Les Walker and Pete Brandon, who never made a TV confession.

Ron Jones was injured in a blast on 15 March, 2001.

Torture

I managed to establish that the prison that Ron Jones was taken to was the infamous Mabaheth Interrogation Centre.

Jones says he was beaten on the soles of the feet, night and day, day and night.

Ron Jones
Ron Jones still lives with the physical and mental torture
He was hung from a bracket for so long he screamed in agony. The pain was absolutely excruciating.

Ron Jones explained: "At one time, the torturer started to sing, and I have this thing in my head that he was singing Ring-A-Ring of Roses.

"The blows got fiercer and actually knocked my blindfold off slightly and I could see him out of the corner of my eye and he was smiling.

"And I remember saying: 'I'll tell you anything you want. Just don't hit me again'."


The seven men confessed on Saudi TV. They were then found guilty and sentenced before being allowed to see their defence lawyers.

The confessions seem staged, with the men appearing to stumble reluctantly over prepared texts.

State of denial

Foreign Minister Prince Saud al Faisal
Foreign Minister Prince Saud al Faisal insists that torture does not take place
Foreign Minister Prince Saud al Faisal told Correspondent: "I don't care what the so-called experts say. The experts are not just wrong, they are absolutely wrong".

He was shown an artist's portrait of the torturer, who Jones had said was Lt Col Abdul Aziz.

The Foreign Minister was not impressed.


Now an eighth westerner - another Briton - has been detained in connection with two more bomb outrages.

His name has been withheld by the Foreign Office in London.



Saudi Arabia - State of denial, Sunday 24 November 2002 on BBC Two at 1915 GMT

Reporter: John Sweeney
Producer: Guy Smith
Editor: Karen O'Connor
Deputy Editor: David Belton
Online Producer: Andrew Jeffrey

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Ron Jones
"I could see him out of the corner of my eye - and he was smiling"
Ron Jones
"He literally just swung this cane onto the soles of my feet"
The detained westerners' defence lawyers
"We have stated in our appeal that they were subjected to torture"
Sheikh Ahmed Hussein al Morjaan
Comments on alleged Saudi involvement with September 11
Prince Turki al Faisal al Saud
"We do not consider the punishment of beheading as being abhorrent"
Foreign Minister Prince Saud al Faisal
"I am telling you - they were not tortured"
Saudi Arabia: State of denial


TALKING POINT
See also:

21 Nov 02 | Middle East
15 Nov 02 | Business
09 Nov 02 | Middle East
04 Nov 02 | Middle East
03 Nov 02 | Middle East
01 Nov 02 | Middle East
Links to more Correspondent stories are at the foot of the page.


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