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William Sampson (2005)

UK court allows 3 men to seize Riyadh assets

LONDON - The court of appeal in London on Monday granted lawyers acting for three men, who were tortured and detained in Saudi jails for more than two years, permission to seize the kingdom's assets in this country, including Saudi commercial airliners.

The ruling follows a decision by the court of appeal last October giving the men the right to sue Saudi officials responsible for their torture in the British courts.

In October, the Saudi government decided it would not contest an order to pay the men's costs, yet has failed to do so. It has promised to take the case to the House of Lords.

Bindman and partners, lawyers for William Sampson, Sandy Mitchell and Les Walker, will now apply to the high court sheriff to seize sufficient commercial property to meet the costs, believed to be more than £100,000. Bindman and partners have made clear they will send the sheriff in to seize Saudi property as soon as possible. They are not entitled to enter the Saudi embassy, as it is covered by diplomatic immunity and regarded as foreign territory.

However, any commercial property owned by the Saudi state in Britain is regarded fair game. That includes Saudi Arabian airlines, as well as houses and cars used for commercial purposes by Saudi officials or employees.

The Saudi embassy could not be reached for comment on Monday, but lawyers for the kingdom indicated in court that they would seek to overturn the order to pay costs by asserting immunity, setting the stage for further legal arguments.

Lawyers for the three men subsequently asked the Court of Appeal to prevent Saudi representatives from relying on immunity in the costs issue, but the court on Monday rejected the application, said Tamsin Allen, one of the British men's attorneys. Hailing the court's decision, Allen said she was appalled by the Saudis' delaying tactics.

"We, our clients and the public funding authorities are outraged that Saudi Arabia, one of the richest states in the world, should force the legal aid board to pay its debts and at the same time use our courts to seek immunity from torture claims." William Sampson pointed out that the Saudis had agreed not to challenge the cost order when it was granted in October and were now seeking to renege.


Prince Ahmed Rejects Torture Claim by 3 Britons

JEDDAH, 19 May 2005 - Deputy Interior Minister Prince Ahmed yesterday rejected allegations made by three Britons that they had been tortured at a Riyadh jail and said they should have been thankful for receiving pardon for the crimes they had committed.

"They have never been tortured. They had lawyers and the representatives of their embassies used to visit them and their families. If there were anything of that sort, their countries would have protested and it never happened," the prince said when asked about the torture allegation.

"The Shariah court had issued a strong verdict against them as they deserved it for their crimes," he pointed out.

Prince Ahmed said the Kingdom was not officially informed about the move by Bindman and Partners, a London-based law firm, which represents Britons Sandy Mitchell, Les Walker and William Sampson, to seize the Kingdom's assets in Britain to pay for overdue legal costs.

Tamsin Allen of Bindman and Partners, said her firm would "start the process" this week of seizing some Britain-based Saudi state assets. She claimed that her clients had won a landmark case in which Britain's appeals court effectively removed blanket immunity for officials from foreign states accused of serious crimes, for example, torture.

The men were held in Saudi jails for more than two years and confessed, allegedly after torture, to plotting a series of bomb attacks in Riyadh in 2000 and 2001. Saudi authorities described the bombings, in which one Briton was killed, as part of a turf war between Western gangs supplying illegal liquor to expatriates.

The appeals court ruled that the men, along with a fourth Briton jailed by the Saudis, could sue individuals. Allen also claimed that the court ordered Riyadh to pay for the legal costs of its appeal to that decision, believed to be more than 100,000 pounds ($180,000).

But the Saudi Embassy in London said the Court of Appeal Judges had resoundingly rejected the application by Bindman and Partners on behalf of their clients concerning a technical question about legal costs.

"We believe the article in Tuesday's Guardian newspaper misrepresents the Court of Appeal hearing," the embassy said. "Once we have received the transcript of the court hearing we will be taking advice as to whether there has been a clear breach of the industry's Code of Practice (Clause 1 - Accuracy), administered by the Press Complaints Commission," the embassy said in a statement.

"Lawyers for the claimants had not taken steps to enforce the order from last year and the amount had not even been decided until March 31 this year. It is the intention of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to comply fully with the Court of Appeal," it added.

The embassy also said Saudi Arabia would take the matter to Britain's highest court of appeal. "It remains the intention of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to take the underlying case to the House of Lords where it will be heard on April 26, 2006," it said.


Lawyer of three British 'torture victims' moves to seize Saudi assets in Britain over legal case

A lawyer for three Britons who claim they were tortured by Saudi authorities said Tuesday she would move to seize the kingdom's assets in Britain to pay for overdue legal costs.

Tamsin Allen said that her firm, Bindman and Partners, would "start the process" this week of seizing some Britain-based Saudi state assets, which include Saudi Arabian Airlines.

Her clients, Sandy Mitchell, Les Walker and William Sampson, who is British-Canadian, won a landmark case last October in which Britain's appeals court effectively removed blanket immunity for officials from foreign states accused of serious crimes like torture.

The men were held in Saudi jails for more than two years and confessed, allegedly after torture, to plotting a series of bomb attacks in Riyadh in 2000 and 2001.

Riyadh authorities described the bombings, in which one Briton was killed, as part of a turf war between Western gangs supplying illegal liquor to expatriates in the strict Islamic state, but critics reject the argument as a way to scapegoat foreigners instead of homegrown militants.

The appeal court ruled that the men, along with a fourth Briton jailed by the Saudis, could sue individuals, including their interrogators and the Saudi interior minister, Prince Naif bin Abdul Aziz.

It threw out the Saudi demand for blanket immunity, and ordered Riyadh to pay for the legal costs of its appeal to that decision, believed to be more than 100,000 pounds (180,000 dollars, 150,000 euros).

Allen said that although the Saudis had not contested the legal costs they had failed to pay, and would now face the "normal" procedure of having assets seized.

"The news is that they're not paying the costs. And we're going to therefore seize an asset," she said. "They may try to stop us and they may succeed in stopping us, but they haven't done that yet."

Under normal court procedures the High Court sheriff can be asked to seize and sell Saudi property, including aircraft or cars, but not the embassy, which is considered foreign territory.

A spokesman from the Saudi Arabian embassy in London, however, said the country would take the matter to Britain's highest court of appeal.

"It remains the intention of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to take the underlying case to the House of Lords where it will be heard on 26th April 2006," the spokesman said.

Allen noted that the Saudi state's refusal to pay had forced her clients to use public legal aid monies.

"We, our clients and the public funding authorities are all outraged that Saudi Arabia, one of the richest states in the world, should force the hard-pressed legal aid fund to pay its debts and at the same time use our courts to seek immunity from torture claims," she said.

The Britons' compensation claim will only be able to move forward once the Saudi appeal is either rejected or dealt with by the Law Lords, she said, adding that settling the issue of immunity would "open up the way for straightforward claim for damages for torture".

"Ideally the Saudi government would pay the legal costs and pay compensation and apologize, and accept (the three Britons') innocence," the lawyer added.


British inquiry clears William Sampson

LONDON - A British inquest has found no evidence linking a fatal car bombing in Saudi Arabia to Canadian William Sampson, who spent two-and-a-half years in a Saudi jail for his alleged role in the crime.

Coroner David Masters ruled found there was no evidence tying Sampson or two other suspects to the crime.

The inquest was investigating the death of Christopher Rodway, a 47-year-old British hospital worker who was killed in a car bomb attack in Riyadh.

"As far as I am concerned, I have been exonerated by the coroner," said Sampson, who lives in Penrith, northwest England. "It effectively clears my name."

Masters said he could not determine who killed Rodway. No Saudi officials appeared at the inquest.

Sampson, 45, was working with the Saudi Industrial Development Fund when he was detained in November 2000.

He was released in August 2003, having faced a death sentence for a series of bombings that targeted westerners in the Gulf state. Five British men were also released with him after being granted clemency by the Saudi king.

Sampson claims he was tortured during his incarceration, an allegation the Saudis deny.


Inquest ruling clears name, Sampson says

An English coroner ruled yesterday that a Briton who died in a car-bomb attack in Saudi Arabia in 2000 was "unlawfully killed," but said there was no evidence linking the death to Canadian William Sampson and two other men convicted of the crime in a Saudi court.

At an inquest yesterday in the Wiltshire town of Trowbridge, coroner David Masters said 47-year-old hospital worker Christopher Rodway was killed by an explosion in Riyadh that he called a "horrific bolt out of the blue."

But he said he could not identify "the perpetrators of this atrocity" and noted that all three men convicted in the case had retracted their confessions, which they said were extracted under torture.

Mr. Sampson, who attended yesterday's inquest, said the ruling exonerated him of the crime, for which he was sentenced to death by a Saudi court.

"We have no case to answer -- I have basically cleared my name as of today," Mr. Sampson said in a telephone interview after the inquest. "I have now established that there is no evidence that says that I had anything to do with the death of Christopher Rodway."

Mr. Sampson, Briton Sandy Mitchell and Belgian Raf Schyvens confessed to the murder on Saudi television in February, 2001, but later recanted.

Who killed Mr. Rodway remains a mystery. Saudi authorities maintained he was the victim of a turf war among Westerners in the illegal alcohol trade. Mr. Sampson and others contend the attack was inspired by the al-Qaeda terror network and aimed at the kingdom's sizable expatriate community.

Jane Rodway, the victim's widow, recalled at the inquest that she and her husband were driving to a garden centre in Riyadh on Nov. 23, 2000. "We had just turned the corner when I heard a very long bang," she said. "I know I screamed but I don't know where the bang came from.

"The glass came in. I blacked out for a second. When I came to, the car was still moving -- wheeling along the road. It finally came to a halt."

The blast appeared to come from a device planted below the driver's seat, which blew off Mr. Rodway's legs.

Mrs. Rodway said later she is still seeking answers about her husband's death.

"It would be nice to know why we were targeted," she said. "What had we done wrong? Why us in particular? The people who killed him are free. I don't think we'll ever know the truth."

Mr. Sampson confessed to the murder in January, 2001, and was later sentenced to death. He was held in jail for 31 months before being released in August, 2003, along with five other Britons and a Belgian. All had been arrested in conjunction with Mr. Rodway's death and similar attacks on other foreigners in Saudi Arabia.

Two police officers from Scotland Yard's anti-terrorism branch, who travelled to Saudi Arabia to help in the investigation, testified that Saudi authorities gave them no evidence linking the Westerners to Mr. Rodway's death. No Saudi officials appeared at the inquest.

Mr. Sampson believes the ruling strengthens the civil suit that he and two others have launched against Saudi officials they hold responsible for their torture in prison. A British appeal court ruled in October that the case could go ahead, overruling a lower court decision that said Saudi Arabia enjoyed immunity from prosecution.

Mr. Sampson, a 45-year-old biochemist, has been out of work since his release from prison. He lives in Penrith in England's Lake District.

"I've been living hand to mouth," he said. After applying unsuccessfully for several jobs, he has begun giving lectures in Canada -- speaking of his experiences in Saudi Arabia, the lessons he learned about human survival and the obligations of states to protect their citizens against torture and abuse of their human rights.

He has also been following the case of Maher Arar, the Syrian-Canadian who was arrested in New York and sent by U.S. authorities to Syria, where he was tortured in prison before being released. The role of the Canadian government in his case is now the subject of a judicial inquiry.

"Somebody shipped him back to Syria so they could have the crap beaten out of him because they couldn't do it in their own country," Mr. Sampson said. "They decided to farm out the business of torture to somebody else."

Mr. Sampson said that in his own case, the British and Canadian governments should insist that Saudi Arabia back up its claims of his guilt and seek redress on his behalf for the injuries he suffered at the hands of his captors.


Inquest clears Canadian, two others in car bombings in Saudi Arabia in 2000

LONDON (AP) - British police have found no evidence linking a fatal car bombing in Saudi Arabia to a Canadian and two others who were accused of launching the attack, an inquiry heard.

Canadian William Sampson, Briton Sandy Mitchell, and Belgian Raf Schyvens were arrested after a bomb exploded under Christopher Rodway's car in Riyadh in November 2000. Rodway died in the blast. Coroner David Masters ruled 47-year-old Rodway was unlawfully killed but found there was no evidence tying Sampson or the other suspects to the crime.

"As far as I am concerned, I have been exonerated by the coroner," said Sampson, who lives in Penrith, northwest England. "It effectively clears my name."

Sampson, 45, was working with the Saudi Industrial Development Fund when he was detained for his supposed role in two car bombings in November 2000.

He was sentenced to death and kept in solitary confinement until his release in August 2003.

He was seen on Saudi television confessing to the car bombings but later recanted and said the confessions were extracted through torture.

Det-Supt Kim Durham, from the anti-terror branch of London's Metropolitan Police, told the inquest he had found no proof that Sampson and Mitchell were involved in the death.

"We have had no formal documentation of their convictions from the Saudis at all," added Durham, who went to Saudi Arabia two weeks after the bombing.

British Labour MP John Lyons, who campaigned for the suspects' release, said he was happy with the verdict but said the coroner should have gone one step further and ordered a police investigation to find Rodway's killers.

In British law, a coroner is an official - usually a lawyer - who makes a legal ruling on the cause of death.


Coroner clears Scot over bombing murder in Saudi

A SCOT who faced beheading after being wrongly convicted of a bombing murder in Saudi Arabia has been exonerated by a coroner.

Sandy Mitchell, 47, was cleared after an inquest into the death of Christopher Rodway, 47, in Riyadh in November 2000.

Wiltshire Coroner David Masters said he found nothing linking Mr Mitchell, originally from Kirkintilloch, and Dr William Sampson to Mr Rodway's death in a car bomb blast.

Dr Sampson, 45, from Penrith, Cumbria, and Mr Mitchell, who now lives in Halifax, were allegedly tortured into confessing to having planted the car bomb on Saudi TV in February 2001 and were sentenced to death.

However, they were given a royal pardon and released in August 2003, having spent two-and-a-half years in jail.

They both retracted their confessions on release.

Saudi authorities claimed the bombings were part of a bloody turf war to gain control of the illegal alcohol trade in the kingdom.

The two men denied this and maintained the bomb was planted by Islamic terrorists.

The inquest was told no documentation or proof of Mr Mitchell and Dr Sampson's conviction or guilt had ever been received by Scotland Yard.

The coroner told the inquest at Trowbridge he saw no need to pass the papers relating to the pair's supposed involvement in Mr Rodway's murder to the Office of Public Prosecutions.

John Lyons, Labour MP for Strathkelvin and Bearsden, who campaigned for the men's release, said he was delighted by the coroner's decision not to recommend prosecuting the pair.

But he added the coroner should have gone one step further and ordered a police investigation to find Mr Rodway's real killers.


Scot finally cleared of car-bomb killing

Relief for man who faced death penalty in Saudi Arabia

A SCOT who faced beheading in Saudi Arabia for a murder he did not commit spoke last night of his relief at being officially exonerated, and called on the British authorities to try to find the real culprits.

Sandy Mitchell, 49, from Glasgow, was allegedly tortured in prison after being arrested and accused of murdering Christopher Rodway, 47, in a car-bomb attack in Riyadh on 17 November, 2000.

Mr Mitchell and William Sampson, 45, from Penrith, Cumbria, were allegedly tortured into confessing on Saudi television in February 2001 to having planted the car bomb. They were sentenced to death.

The pair were then given a royal pardon and released in August 2003, having spent more than two and a half years in jail. They retracted the confessions on their release.

At an inquest into Mr Rodway's death yesterday, David Masters, the Wiltshire coroner, found nothing to link either Mr Mitchell or Dr Sampson to the fatal explosion.

It is the first time Mr Mitchell has been publicly exonerated and his voice shook as he described his relief. "It is great - just a load off my mind," he said. "It is the first time the authorities have officially said we are exonerated. It would have saved a lot of pain and torment if the Saudi authorities displayed the same degree of professionalism."

Mr Mitchell said the results of the inquest should force the British authorities to put pressure on the Saudi government to find the real killers.

He said: "It is very easy to get someone to confess under torture - it takes no art at all and eventually everyone will break. But getting someone to confess will not solve the crime."

Speaking from his home in Halifax, Yorkshire, where he lives with his pregnant wife and six-year-old son, he went on: "I would like the British authorities to find out who really killed Christopher Rodway - his family are entitled to that."

The Saudi authorities had claimed the two men were behind the bombing and others like it that were said to be part of a bloody turf war to gain control of the kingdom's illegal alcohol trade. The men always maintained the bomb was planted by Islamic fundamentalists.

John Lyons, the MP for Strathkelvin and Bearsden, who fought for Mr. Mitchell's release, said the coroner should have ordered a police investigation to find Mr Rodway's killers. "You cannot say a man was unlawfully killed and then do nothing about it," he said. "Mr Rodway's family will want justice. It's a matter of fact that Sandy Mitchell and Dr Sampson were tortured into making confessions."


Inquest further exonerates Scot who faced beheading in Saudi Arabia

A Scot who faced a public beheading in Saudi Arabia for a car bombing he denies, has been further exonerated. An inquest into the death of Christopher Rodway who was killed in the blast in Riyadh, has found no evidence linking Sandy Mitchell to the murder.

Mitchell, who is originally from Kirkintilloch, was tortured into making a televised confession, and spent three years behind bars before being released.

With the words "I confirm and confess that I was ordered to carry out an explosion." Sandy Mitchell effectively signed his own death warrant on Saudi television. His apparent confession to planting the bomb in Riyadh which killed Christopher Rodway, put the Scot and Canadian Bill Sampson on death row, facing a public beheading for murder.

Bill Sampson said: "What they want is for you to confess to whatever they tell you to confess to. They reiterate time after time after time the scenario they want you to sing back to them until eventually you break and you do. It took me about six and a half days for that to happen when finally the whole idea of confessing to a murder, for which I could be subsequently sentenced to death, was preferable to continue to being tortured physically."

Both men were eventually given clemency and released in 2003.Today the inquest into the death of Christopher Rodway returned a verdict of unlawful killing, but stressed the coroner had found no evidence linking Sandy Mitchell or Bill Sampson to the car bombing.

Solicitor Geoffrey Bindman said: "The Saudi authorities have failed to provide any evidence although they've been requested on a number of occasions by the Foreign and Commonwealth office to do so. The fact is, they can't produce evidence because there is no evidence, these people are entirely innocent and the coroner's verdict will help to establish that."

Both men are now raising civil actions against the Saudi authorities.