Saudi authorities backed away Monday from reports last week that a court was preparing to order a man paralyzed as punishment for paralyzing another man, allegedly in a fight.
The paralyzed man, identified by the Saudi newspaper Okaz as 22-year-old Abdul-Aziz al-Mitairy, requested the paralysis under sharia law, and, Okaz reported, the judge in the case had sent letters to several Saudi hospitals asking if they could sever a man's spinal cord.
But the Saudi Ministry of Justice denied that paralysis was ever considered as a punishment in the case, a high ranking Saudi government official told CNN.
The president of the court in the northwest province of Tabuk, where the incident took place, also disputed the reports.
"The proceedings in this case are still pending, and no verdict had been issued in that regards," Sheikh Saud Al-Yousef told Al-Riyadh newspaper.
Al-Yousef said the court had queried a number of hospitals and other authorities about surgical paralysis in order to convince the plaintiff about the impossibility of carrying out such a medical procedure.
"The plaintiff was demanding punishment of the attacker, and the judicial ruling in this case only includes the plaintiff's eligibility for blood money," he said.
Saudi news reports said last week that the Tabuk court debated how to carry out a paralysis sentence during proceedings in the case. News reports said that Riyadh's King Faisal Specialist Hospital, one of the country's top facilities, told the court it could not perform such a procedure.
But Amnesty International, which urged Saudi authorities not to carry out the punishment, said that at least one hospital said it would be possible to surgically paralyze the man.
Al-Mitairy told Okaz that the accused stabbed him in the back with a large knife during a fight more than two years ago.
"The accused confessed to the crime in front of police, resulting in a general sentence of seven months," he told the newspaper.
The alleged attacker, who has not been identified publicly, "was convicted and sentenced following a trial where he was said to have had no legal assistance," Amnesty said.
International human rights law would consider such a sentence to be a violation of the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and to break the U.N. Convention Against Torture to which Saudi Arabia is a party, Amnesty said. It would also violate the principles of medical ethics adopted by the U.N. General Assembly, it said.
Other sentences of retribution in the kingdom have included eye-gouging, tooth extraction and death in cases involving murder, it said.