Fayhan Al Ghamdi. Image Credit: YouTube screen grab

Manama: A court in Saudi Arabia has dropped the charge of sexual assault against the father of Luma, the five-year-old daughter he had beaten to death.

The decision was taken after no trace of semen was found on her body, Saudi daily Al Sharq reported on Wednesday.

The father’s lawyer added that the charge of manslaughter was also dropped and that the court considered in its ruling only the charge of “excessive disciplining that resulted in death” against the father.

Such an accusation comes under the domestic law, the lawyer, Mansour Al Khunaizan, told Al Sharq.

The sentence was therefore reduced according to the only charge and the Court of Appeals upheld the new public rights ruling.

Blood money

The lawyer added that he had also appealed the ruling under the private rights that made his client Fayhan Al Gamdi, a self-proclaimed preacher, pay Luma’s mother, his ex-wife, SR1 million in blood money, explaining that his client was under moral and material duress to accept the reconciliation deal.

Under Saudi laws, the mother had the right to ask for blood money instead of the death penalty for the defendant.

“The Court of Appeals has decided to release my client on bail and to refer the private laws case to a lower court to review it,” Al Khunaizan said.

The lawyer warned he would take action against all the media that had tarnished the reputation of his client and the status of the judicial system in Saudi Arabia by misreporting the facts about the case.

In 2013, a court in Hawtat Bani Tamim, 160 kilometres south of the capital Riyadh, sentenced Al Gamdi to eight years in prison and 800 lashes.

His second wife was sentenced to 10 months in prison and 150 lashes for not reporting the torture inflicted on Luma.

However, following an appeal, the sentence was reduced to four years and then, after a new challenge, to three years.

The lawyer said that he had refuted the call by the public prosecutor to hand the defendant the death penalty for killing his daughter arguing there was no sufficient evidence to support the claim.

Severe punishment

Luma’s case shocked Saudi Arabia in 2012 when details emerged how her father tortured as she visited him and his new wife. Reports said that the father used wires and an iron rod to punish his daughter and that he had expressed doubts about her virginity.

Luma died after four months in coma and was not buried for another four months pending the investigation and the autopsy procedures.

Luma’s divorced mother, an Egyptian national, said that her daughter lived with her under a court order and was allowed to visit her father even though he reportedly did not seem to care about her.

She added that she had agreed to marry her ex-husband as he appeared to be a gentle and reformed man after spending years of his life as a drug addict. However, following the marriage, he turned into a violent man who often beat her, forcing her to file for divorce.

A court in the Eastern Province city of Dammam ruled in her favour and she was told by the judge that she could have the custody of the daughter until the girl reached the age of seven.

The mother said that, following the divorce, her former husband had met their daughter only on four occasions.

“The last visit was when I took her to see him in Riyadh where he had moved after he lapsed into a long silence even though Luma was keen on seeing him,” she said. “The agreement was that she spends only two weeks with him, but after 14 days he refused to let her come back home to me. The last words I heard from her were ‘I love you, mum and I always pray for you.’ Her father often said that he would make her forget all about me,” the mother told Saudi media.

In December 2011, Luma’s mother was informed by the police in Riyadh that her daughter was in hospital where she was being treated for severe burns and bruises, and that her condition was critical.

“It was such a terrible shock to see her frail body in this tragic state. She remained paralysed for several months before she passed away,” she said.

The mother initially insisted on the death penalty for her former husband and his wife for “torturing” her daughter, but she later changed her mind, saying that she would rather take blood money to help her with the increasingly frustrating financial challenges.

“I have three other children [from a previous marriage] and a house to look after and I will need the money,” she said. “There is no interest for the family in the execution of my former husband.”

Amid the public furore about the case and claims that Al Gamdi would not be given the punishment he deserved because of his religious status, the Islamic Affairs Ministry said he was not on its official list of Islamic preachers.

Facts about Luma and her mother

  • Luma's mother entered Saudi Arabia from Egypt as the wife of a Saudi citizen. The couple had three children.
  • After the death of her first husband, she married Luma’s father. He divorced her while she was pregnant.
  • They had legal disputes that ended with her obtaining the custody of the daughter.
  • Luma regularly visited her mother and she suffered physical violence as she visited her father.
  • She fell into coma as a result of her father’s violent behaviour and died four months later.
  • Her father was arrested and tried for the case.