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Friday, May 22, 1998 Published at 15:27 GMT 16:27 UK


Saudi ambassador attacks BBC documentary

Dr Algosaibi was scathing about the BBC panorama programme

Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Britain has likened a BBC documentary about the two British nurses imprisoned in his country for murder to a 'Hollywood production'.

Islamic law academic Akbar Ahmed: "The next person seeking clemency will find it difficult"
Dr Ghazi Algosaibi said John Ware, the reporter and presenter on the programme, should be producing "detective thrillers".

Dr Algosaibi also dismissed any allegations that the two nurses were abused by Saudi officials.

The BBC's 'Panorama' programme examined the claims of sexual molestation and ill-treatment made by both Deborah Parry and Lucille McLauchlan.

[ image: A
A "Hollywood Production"?
They claimed to have suffered the abuse during five days of interrogation by Saudi police who were investigating the murder of the Australian nurse Yvonne Gilford.

Actors and actresses were used to recreate key scenes but Dr Algosaibi said: "As for the actors and actresses, I may heartily recommend them to Bafta for minor comedy awards."

BBC rejects criticism

A BBC spokeswoman for Panorama refuted these attacks and said Mr Ware had spent more than a year preparing the programme.

"I am surprised by such a personal attack on Mr Ware," she said. "Mr Ware is an award-winning journalist with years of experience."

Dr Algosaibi also dismissed the substance of the programme; the nurses' claims of innocence, their insistence that their trial was unfair and their allegations of brutal treatment which led to their confessions.

[ image: Deborah Parry says the pair were sexually abused]
Deborah Parry says the pair were sexually abused
"If you go around any prison in the world and ask inmates whether they committed the crime of which they are convicted, I suspect the vast majority of them will deny the charges.

"I think human nature works that way," he said.

"I think anyone with even the slightest knowledge of Saudi society, its deeply religious and conservative nature, will realise that any allegations of sexual abuse are laughable."

The Ambassador, challenged about widespread claims that the nurses were not given a fair trial, said: "Saudi Arabia is convinced that its judicial system is capable of delivering justice.

[ image: Lucille McLauchlan: five day interrogation ordeal]
Lucille McLauchlan: five day interrogation ordeal
"The trial the nurses had was fair and they went through various levels of appeal until the case ended with a verdict and a sentence which was commuted by the King.

"Quite honestly I don't think any other judicial system would have reached a different conclusion."

The ambassador said the decision by King Fahd to commute the sentence was "not a rare occurrence", but quite usual for Ramadan.

"These numbers include Saudis and non-Saudis," he said.

"Had it not been for the petition received from the families, the names of the two nurses would have come up for review in due course."

British newspapers fail to impress

Dr Algosaibi is also unimpressed by the way the story has been handled by British newspapers.

He said: "I find the press coverage divided between those reporters who are trying to reach the facts and those whose sole interest is sensationalism.

"I personally was not surprised by the reaction."

He also dismissed fears that the affair would harm trade relations between Britain and Saudi Arabia, claiming the "most serious potential crisis" in diplomatic relations is Saturday's World Cup warm up match between the two countries at Wembley.

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