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Spine for a spine in Saudi Arabia

world Updated: Aug 21, 2010 01:14 IST

A judge in Saudi Arabia has asked doctors in the country whether they can damage a man's spinal cord as a tit-for-tat punishment after he was convicted of paralysing a fellow countryman in a cleaver attack.

The ultra-conservative desert Kingdom enforces Islamic law and on rare occasions metes out punishments based on the ancient code of an 'eye-for-an-eye', the Daily Mail said on Friday, citing local media reports.

The judge in the northwestern province of Tabuk has sent letters to several hospitals seeking their advice on whether it is medically possible to render the attacker's spinal cord non-functional.

King Abdullah, the Saudi monarch, has been trying to clamp down on extremist ideology and is said to be opposed to sentences such as the deliberate crippling of Abdul-Aziz Al-Mutairi's un-named assailant.

One leading hospital said that it could not perform the operation, apparently on ethical grounds.

Another hospital reportedly said it is possible to cut the spinal cord but it was not clear whether it is prepared to do so.

The punishment can be waived if the victim chooses to accept 'blood money' in reparation.

The same also applies in capital cases, such as murder.

There have been several instances over the years where a convicted murderer's life has been spared at the 11th hour when his victim's family has eventually decided to show mercy.

But in this instance the victim, Al-Mutairi, is insisting that his attacker —who has not been named by Saudi media — suffer the same crippling injury as he did.