The Race for Blood Money to Prevent an Execution - Latest Global News

The Race for Blood Money to Prevent an Execution

A Kenyan mother who waged a long and desperate campaign to save her son from execution in Saudi Arabia was faint with relief when he was granted a temporary reprieve this week.

Stephen Munyakho, 50, was scheduled to be executed on Wednesday for the 2011 killing of a Yemeni man. Execution could have been by decapitation – the most common method in the Kingdom is decapitation – or by hanging, lethal injection, or firing squad.

However, his stay of execution is only temporary – and Dorothy Kweyu, 73, has told the BBC that she has not yet been given further details about her son’s case by the Kenyan Foreign Ministry.

This means her fear has not subsided. She is still trying to raise the “diyah,” or blood money, that would secure a pardon for the victim’s family under the Islamic legal system known as sharia.

Saudi Arabia is an Islamic state and its justice system is based on Sharia in both criminal and civil cases.

A public appeal has so far raised less than 5% of the $1 million (£790,000) needed, says Ms Kweyu, a respected journalist in Kenya.

Kenyan government officials negotiating on Ms. Kweyu’s behalf hope more time to raise money will be the way forward.

Korir Sing’Oei, a senior Foreign Ministry official, announced the execution delay on Monday, saying negotiators would “develop strategies to bring this matter to a more acceptable conclusion and thereby give both families the closure they so desire.” urgently need and deserve”. .

Mr Munyakho, known as Stevo to his friends and family, went to work in Saudi Arabia in his early 20s and was a camp manager at a Red Sea tourist resort 13 years ago.

According to Ms Kweyu, her son got into an argument with a colleague who she said stabbed Stevo with a letter opener.

Stevo retaliated by grabbing the letter opener and attacking his co-worker, resulting in his death.

“First my son was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to five years in prison,” she told the BBC.

“We expected that he would spend two and a half years in prison in accordance with international norms – but that was not to be the case.”

But an appeal was filed in 2014 that changed the verdict.

“The court ordered the death penalty for my son, which would have been the death penalty,” Ms Kweyu said.

“However, the family of the deceased was later convinced by a Kenyan delegation in Saudi Arabia to accept the diya offer of blood money.”

But the negotiations turned out to be lengthy and difficult – and it wasn’t easy to raise the money for Stevo, who has three children.

A court had set May 15 as the deadline for the payment of blood money.

“One day I asked, ‘Is there a way we can be swapped so they can execute me instead of Steve, my son?’ But I was reprimanded and told to stop talking like that,” Ms Kweyu said.

Dorothy Kweyu surrounded by her nine children in xxx

Dorothy Kweyu in 2002 surrounded by her nine children – Stephen Munyakho is seen in the back row wearing glasses [Dorothy Kweyu]

According to Islamic law, Diyah compensates a victim or his family. It can pay for a wide range of crimes, from murder to assault and criminal damage.

This can lead to a reduction in sentence and, in certain circumstances, a pardon. It is currently used in about 20 countries in the Middle East and Africa, including Sudan and northern Nigeria.

The Quran, the Muslim holy book, supports the payment of blood money – and this was further illustrated by the Prophet Muhammad, who stated in his teachings that the price for murder or manslaughter should be 100 camels.

Modern interpretations mean that this amount is different in different countries, as Diyah is now usually paid in cash.

“In Saudi Arabia, a camel costs an average of 30,000 Saudi riyals [$8,000, £6,300] “So if someone wants to pay for someone’s life, they have to pay at least $80,000,” Nigerian Islamic scholar Sheikh Husseini Zakaria told the BBC.

Other factors such as the gender and religious background of the victim can also determine the amount of blood money demanded. The consent of the victim or his family is also required.

Ms Kweyu says she was initially asked to pay about $2.6 million but successfully negotiated this down to $950,000.

It is unclear whether Stevo changed his religion while in prison. Mr Sing’Oei’s statement said: posted on X (formerly Twitter)He noted that Stephen Munyakho was now known as “Abdulkareem”.

The name change was news to his family, who can occasionally communicate with him when he calls them from prison.

It was difficult for his children. His youngest son, 23-year-old Evans Mwanze, has not seen him in more than 20 years.

“Sometimes I hope my dad comes home,” he told me.

“Sometimes I get discouraged and wonder if the worst could happen. I never met my father. He left when I was three and that was the last time I saw him.”

Ms Kweyu says the prospect of beheading is all too real. According to authorities, there were 172 executions in Saudi Arabia last year.

“One day my son called me and told me that one of his friends had been beheaded. It was such a dark moment.”

The Saudi authorities have not responded to BBC requests for comment, but the Kenyan government has expressed gratitude for its help in the case.

“We will continue to rely on the warm and solid friendship we have with our Saudi partners,” Mr Sing’Oei said, pledging that further negotiations would take place in the coming days.

“We will engage stakeholders in Nairobi and Riyadh, including representatives of our religious leadership, to agree on the next urgent step.”

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