Canada has assured the family of a Canadian sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia over a deadly schoolyard brawl that it is “pursuing all avenues” to assist him, officials said on Saturday.
During a visit to Saudi Arabia, Canadian International Trade Minister Stockwell Day raised the case of Mohamed Kohail, 24, and his brother Sultan in bilateral talks, his office said in a statement.
Day also met with the pair’s family members and “assured them that the government of Canada is pursuing all avenues to assist” Kohail, it said.
Kohail, a Canadian citizen of Palestinian heritage, was arrested in January 2007 and charged with killing a Syrian youth during a schoolyard brawl in Jeddah.
His 18-year-old brother Sultan was also held in connection to the death, but was later released. The two brothers have denied the charges.
No details were provided on the meetings Day had with Saudi officials on the Kohail case, but Ottawa has previously requested clemency for the man.
According to reports, the brothers and other Palestinian youths faced off against a group of Syrian youths in a brawl at Edugates International School in a wealthy suburb of Jeddah, where Sultan had begun studying.
Mohamed Kohail came to the defense of his younger brother, who had been accused of insulting a Syrian girl.
He allegedly punched a Syrian boy, Munzer Haraki, who hit his head against a fence, fell to the ground and died instantly.
Kohail told Canadian media he was forced to sign a false confession.
He said he had been unaware that the beating victim had died, and was charged with murder only after signing the confession.
Until 2007, Kohail had lived with his family in a Montreal suburb, but returned with his family to Saudi Arabia, where he was born, when his sister became ill, he said.
Saudi Arabia is Canada’s biggest trade partner in the Middle East. Last year, bilateral trade between the two countries exceeded C$3 billion (US$2.6 billion).
During his visit, Day witnessed the signing of several contracts, including one between Canadian telecommunications equipment manufacturer Nortel and Faisal Specialist Hospital, a leading Saudi healthcare institution.
Day, his office said, met with Saudi Minister of Commerce and Industry Abdullah Zainal Alireza, Saudi Human Rights Commission president Bandar bin Mohammed al-Aiban, Jeddah governor Prince Meshaal bin Majed and Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority governor Amr Abdullah al-Dabbagh.