Robert Paul Slaten, a 61-year-old US citizen and father-of-two, was sentenced to death by the General Court in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s capital, on 13 July for the murder of his wife.
The General Court had concluded that there was insufficient evidence to prove that Robert Slaten was guilty of murder. However, it then convicted him of the crime by relying on statements made by the victim’s son, who swore 50 times in court that he believed Robert Slaten was responsible for the murder of his mother even though he was not present at the crime scene and provided no substantive information to support his belief. The procedure follows a Shari’a law provision that allows a court to rely on a male heir of the victim expressing at least 50 times under oath his belief that the accused is the perpetrator. Trial records show that at first the victim’s son refused to make these sworn statements but was eventually persuaded to do so by the judges.
Robert Slaten was arrested 2 April 2011, outside his home. According to his family, he was detained incommunicado in solitary confinement for the first two months of his detention. During this time, he was repeatedly interrogated without a lawyer. He was told that he would be allowed to call anyone he liked if he would only “confess” to murder. Robert Slaten had virtually no legal representation throughout his trial. His lawyer only attended a few court sessions at the start of his trial, while US embassy representatives were not present in any of the sessions. He maintains his innocence and has appealed the latest decision, again before the Court of Appeal.