Saudi prince jailed for life for servant's murder in London

20th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

A Saudi prince, the grandson of King Abdullah, was jailed for life by a British court Wednesday for murdering his male servant in a brutal attack at a London hotel after a long campaign of sexual abuse.

Saud Bin Abdulaziz Bin Nasir al-Saud, 34, was ordered to serve a minimum of 20 years by a judge at London's Old Bailey, also known as the Central Criminal Court.

"It is very unusual for a prince to be in the dock on a murder charge. No one in this country is above the law," judge David Bean told Saud as he sentenced him.

The court convicted Saud on Tuesday of beating and strangling Bandar Abdullah Abdulaziz to death on February 15, the culmination of a lengthy period of sexual violence towards his employee.

"It would be wrong for me to sentence you either more severely or more leniently because of your membership of the Saudi royal family," added the judge.

Saud -- whose mother is a daughter of Saudi Arabia's king -- had tried to claim diplomatic immunity when he was arrested following the discovery of his servant's body in their shared suite at the luxury Landmark hotel.

He reportedly had a diplomatic passport but Britain's Foreign Office confirmed he had no diplomatic status when asked by police.

The two-week trial heard that Saud was fuelled by champagne and cocktails when he murdered the 32-year-old Abdulaziz in a ferocious attack after the pair had returned from a Valentine's Day night out.

The victim, also a Saudi, was left with severe injuries including bite marks on both cheeks which prosecutors said showed a clear "sexual element" to the killing.

The prince's lawyers argued that he could face the death penalty in Saudi Arabia over the revelations of homosexuality aired at the trial.

A post-mortem found Abdulaziz had suffered chipped teeth, heavy blows to the head, injuries to the brain and ears and severe neck injuries consistent with strangulation by hand, the trial heard.

Saud had denied murder and a second charge of grievous bodily harm with intent in relation to an earlier alleged assault in a hotel lift that was captured on CCTV footage. He had admitted manslaughter.

The prince had claimed the pair were friends and that he was heterosexual, but the court heard the prince had ordered gay escorts in London and had frequently looked at websites for gay massage parlours and escort agencies.

Prosecutors said he repeatedly assaulted Abdulaziz and that two attacks were captured on CCTV in the hotel lift. The victim was so worn down by the violence that he let Saud kill him without a fight, they said.

Witnesses had told the court that Abdulaziz -- an orphan who was adopted into the family of a low-ranking civil servant in Jeddah -- was treated "like a slave".

The exact number of Saudi princes is not publicly known, but it is believed to be in the low thousands.

Senior princes of the Al-Saud family hold the most powerful ministerial posts, all provincial governorships and the top military positions in the kingdom.

There is no constitution in Saudia Arabia and law is based on Islamic sharia in the ultra-conservative Wahhabi-Hanbali tradition. Judges are clerics schooled in sharia.

© 2010 AFP

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