(4 April) The family of the missing Saudi businessman will petition His Majesty the King to seek "fairness" over the recent court verdict, a top Saudi diplomat said.
On 31 March, the Criminal Court ruling found a group of police officers not guilty of abducting and murdering Mr. Mohammad Al-Ruwaili in 1990, citing insufficient evidence. Saudi officials and the family of Mr. Al-Ruwaili have expressed their disappointment at the verdict, particularly because of the abrupt judge change during the judgment writing session.
Mr. Somsak Phonsuk was removed from his position in January 2014 after presiding over the Al-Ruwaili case for 3 years. Court officials insisted that his removal is unrelated to the Al-Ruwaili trial, as Mr. Somsak was found guilty of approving bail release without due process during his tenure as a judge in Saraburi years ago.
However, in a recent interview with the media Mr. Somsak denied the allegation of inappropriate bail release. He also vowed to contest the court committee's decision to suspend him from his judicial duty.
Mr. Abdulelah Al-Sheaiby, Charge d'Affaires of Saudi Arabia to Thailand, said yesterday he is convinced that the abrupt removal of Mr. Somsak might be a result of "interference" from powerful figures who intend to rig the case in favour of the defendants, some of whom are high-ranking police officers.
To redress such alleged unfairness, Mr. Al-Sheaiby said via an interpreter, the family of Mr. Al-Ruwaili will file a Royal Petition to His Majesty the King, in order to inform the monarch of the sudden judge change and ask for a fair trial on behalf of Mr. Al-Ruwaili.
The diplomat refused to say when the relatives of Mr. Al-Ruwaili will file the petition, but stressed that the family of the missing Saudi businessman do not intend to "drag" His Majesty the King into getting involved with the court case, or to defame the him in any way.
"They want to file the royal petition precisely because they are sure that His Majesty the King can give them justice," Mr. Al-Sheaiby said, "The King is respected and loved by all sides. The goal of the petition is to ask His Majesty the King to support justice".
Mr. Al-Sheaiby added that he believes it is the right of all people who reside in Thailand to file the petition, because His Majesty the King is merciful to all his subjects, foreign or Thai.
The diplomat also expressed his bewilderment at a recent report in Thai Rath newspaper, which quoted Mr. Somsak as saying that he believes there is sufficient evidence regarding the murder of Mr. Al-Ruwaili – contrary to the ruling written by the judge who replaced him – and he is suspicious of the courts motive to remove Mr. Somsak from the case.
"This interview has clearly exposed all the unfairness of the case," Mr. Al-Sheaiby fumed, gesturing to a copy of Thai Rath article translated into Arabic, "I feel uncomfortable to see such an honest judge removed and targeted by an investigation without due reason. In my opinion, there should be a committee to investigate this judge change, instead".
According to Mr. Al-Sheaiby, the judge who replaced Mr. Somsak has only presided over 3 court hearing sessions – out of over 30 – yet he solely wrote the judgment for the 31 March verdict.
The diplomat also lashed out at speculation in a number of anti-government media agencies that former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister, PM Yingluck Shinawatra, have been pressuring the court to convict the defendants in Al-Ruwaili case, in order to secure favour with the Saudi authorities.
"I strongly deny that there is any political involvement in this case. It's not related to politics," Mr. Al-Sheaiby insisted, "What happened is, that a Saudi business was abducted and killed here in Thailand. We just want to fight for his rights … I feel baffled by the allegation. This case is about murder of a victim, not politics"
He continued, "Did this man Thaksin give the evidence to the DSI? No. Was Thaksin there in the room when the officials interviewed the witness? No".
When a reporter asked him whether the Saudi government will impose other retaliatory measures against Thailand, Mr. Al-Sheaiby replied that the matter is still under deliberation by the Saudi authorities in Riyadh.
However, he said the verdict on 31 March "makes every previous effort to improve relationship a waste, even though there are many Thais who want to see our relations back to normal".
For comments, or corrections to this article please contact: [email protected]