Saudi recalls envoy 'over NLA seat'

Saudi recalls envoy 'over NLA seat'

Saudi Arabia has recalled its most senior diplomat to Thailand after learning the brother of a key suspect in the 1990 murder of Saudi businessman Mohammed al-Ruwaili would be appointed to the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), a Saudi embassy source says.

Flashback: Abdalelah Alsheaiby, charge d'affaires of Saudi Arabia to Thailand, joined relatives of Saudi businessman Mohammad al-Ruwaili after the Criminal Court acquitted ex-police officers, including former police inspector-general Pol Lt Gen Somkid Boonthanom, right, of his abduction and murder. (Photos by Thanarak Khoonton and Tawatchai Kemgumnerd)

Abdalelah Alsheaiby, the Saudi embassy's charge d'affaires, was recalled five days before the NLA appointees were announced on July 31, the source said.

Gen Somjate Boonthanom, a former senator and brother of Pol Lt Gen Somkid Boonthanom, a defendant in the case, was named as one of the 197 NLA members.

"Riyadh has called [Mr Alsheaiby] back for consultations," the source said.

He said he was not certain when Mr Alsheaiby would return and there was no downgrading of diplomatic ties since no embassy staff were withdrawn.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Sek Wannamethee said Thursday that Saudi Arabia had not indicated it would further downgrade relations with Thailand. Mr Alsheaiby's recall was probably for consultations, he said.

However, Mr Alsheaiby had suggested that ties between the two countries could deteriorate following the Criminal Court's March 31 acquittal of five former police officers accused of the kidnapping and murder of the Saudi businessman in 1990.

Mr Ruwaili went missing in Bangkok on Feb 12, 1990, and is presumed dead.

Prosecutors and Mr Ruwaili's family filed an appeal in late June against the acquittal of the five ex-policemen.

They were former police inspector-general Pol Lt Gen Somkid, Pol Col Sorarak Jusanit, Pol Col Praphas Piyamongkol, Pol Lt Col Suradej Udomdee and Pol Sgt Maj Prasong Thongrung.

When the public prosecutors' office petitioned the Appeal Court just before the June 30 deadline, it raised three points of contention — the Criminal Court's rebuttal of a key witness, the rejection of a ring presented as evidence implicating the defendants, and the abrupt change of the presiding judge before the court's ruling.

The court had said there was insufficient evidence to prove the defendants had committed the crime.

It also said prosecutors failed to produce their key witness, Pol Lt Col Suvichai Kaewpluek, to testify against the defendants.

The prosecution was forced to rely on a statement Pol Lt Col Suvichai gave last year, which differed from previous statements he gave to investigators in 1992 and in 1993, the court said.

The court also said additional evidence, including a ring which investigators claimed belonged to Mr Ruwali, was insufficient and vague. Without proof of guilt against the accused, the court ruled to dismiss the case.

Saudi diplomats and relatives of Mr Ruwaili voiced disappointment with the ruling.

The murder of four Saudi diplomats in 1989 and 1990 and the disappearance of Mr Ruwaili in 1990 soured relations between Thailand and Saudi Arabia with Riyadh downgrading diplomatic ties.

Full ties have yet to be restored.

Office of the Attorney-General spokesman Wanchai Rujanawong said Thursday the Appeal Court is now considering the Ruwaili petition and would set a date to deliver its ruling "soon".

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