Suthers’ Saudi Trip Politically Questionable

Lost in the shuffle of stories about the still-not-quite-finished election in Colorado was a weeklong trip by Attorney General John Suthers to Saudi Arabia.As 9News reports:

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers just returned this past weekend from Saudi Arabia. He says he was in the capital, Riyadh, because of a recent criminal case that the State Department was concerned would impact U.S.-Saudi relations.

The Saudis were interested in the case of Homaidan Al-Turki, a native of that country, who in June was convicted on 12 charges, including unlawful sexual contact and false imprisonment.

The case generated controversy in Saudi Arabia. “That seems to stem from the fact that the defendant’s family is very influential in Saudi Arabia,” said Suthers.

Suthers traveled to Saudi Arabia at the request of the American ambassador there and the State Department…

…Suthers, who met with King Abdullah and Crown Prince Sultan, among other leaders, said the Saudis question if an Indonesian maid was a competent witness and if Al-Turki’s punishment was too harsh…

…According to Suthers he does not think any minds were changed, but says his mission, answering all questions about the case, was accomplished.

Al-Turki was sentenced to 28 years to life in prison. He is appealing the case. His wife and children are in Saudi Arabia with family. The State Department paid for Suthers’ trip.

Taking the trip at the behest of the State Department was probably a tough thing for Suthers to turn down, but it could come back to haunt him politically. Suthers has made no secret of his desire to run for the U.S. Senate in 2008 if Wayne Allard retires, but this trip could certainly be used to paint him (fairly or not) as a Saudi apologist.

Conservative Rocky Mountain News editor Vincent Carroll, for one, was not impressed by Suthers’ decision to travel to Saudi Arabia:

If King Abdullah or Crown Prince Sultan of Saudi Arabia were concerned about the quality of justice meted out to one of their subjects residing in Colorado, why didn’t they just ask their ambassador to investigate?

Or why not set up a conference call with state and Arapahoe County prosecutors so Saudi royalty could hear the evidence against Homaidan Al-Turki, who was convicted and sentenced in June to 28 years for treating his family’s nanny from Indonesia as a captive sex slave?

Did it really require a personal visit from state Attorney General John Suthers, who took a weeklong trip to the Saudi kingdom, to reassure his majesty and the crown prince that Al-Turki was not the victim of anti-Muslim bias?

Foreign nationals are convicted in Colorado courts on a regular basis. Surely Al-Turki’s friends and relations are not the first to consider their loved one a victim of alleged American intolerance and bias. Shall we dispatch the AG on a lengthy mission to smooth ruffled feathers and justify our legal system every time these suspicions surface – or only when they involve a monarch presiding over one of the most reactionary autocracies on Earth?

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