Saudi video plea to Obama

A group of Saudis have launched this video plea asking US president Barack Obama to pardon their countryman Humaidan al-Turki, who was convicted in a Colorado court four years ago for several crimes and was sentenced to 28 years in prison. The short video is well produced, and has racked up more than half a million views on YouTube so far. It features several Saudi celebrities, bringing together, probably for the first time, a Sunni cleric and a Shia cleric as well as some other notable Saudis including a columnist, a tv talk show host, and a former footballer. The idea for this video plea grew out of a column by Najeeb al-Zamil, a member of the Shoura Council, who also appears in the video. However, the highlight of the video is the emotional appearance of Ruba, the 12-year-old daughter of Humaidan.

The effort by Al-Muhannad Al-Kadam, Asem Al-Ghamdi, and the young Saudi team behind this work is no doubt commendable. But like Abdulrahman al-Lahem and John Burgess, I wonder about the real impact of the video. The case has been raised by Saudi officials in several exchanges with US counterparts, but to no avail. In December 2006, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers travelled to Riyadh to explain the original convictions to Saudi officials.

The timing to release this video was apparently chosen to coincide with the fourth anniversary of his sentence, but from the American perspective it seems like a bad timing. The controversy over building an Islamic community center near ground zero has resulted in a rise of anti-Muslim sentiments here. As John points out, “At this time, sad to say, Islam and Muslims do not enjoy favorable views by a majority of Americans. There is simply no up-side to the President’s issuing a pardon.”

In any case, and regardless of the outcome of this work, I’m certainly glad to see such grassroots effort gains traction. It is a good example of what regular citizens can do to make a difference, and it is a also a good example for the use of social media to promote a cause. The idea that started with a newspaper column now has a Facebook group with more than 26,000 members. The goal of the video, according to the website, is to deliver the Saudi point of view on this issue. I think this goal has been reached. Can this goal be a catalyst for a presidential pardon in favor of Homaidan Al-Turki, like the campaign hopes? That’s a totally different matter.

12 thoughts on “Saudi video plea to Obama

  1. Well this is clearly a complicated legal case and people who blindly call for his release without having all the facts are not acting rationally.

    All this aside, as you have said it would be political suicide for the president to pardon him.

    I do sympathize with the family and I hope they are well cared for in his absence.

  2. It is unlikely that these pleas will make any difference. Jonathan Pollard has been in jail for over twenty years in spite of a constant campaign for his release.

  3. Assuming that the facts as presented on Wikipedia are true, this guy is guilty of a very serious crime.

    If Obama gave this guy clemency right now, he would guarantee a landslide for the Republicans in the November election.

  4. I don’t understand why Saudis are asking for this man to be released other than the fact that he is their fellow countryman.

    Honestly, if he went to the USA and committed crimes then sadly he must face the consequences. Now, if he has wrongly been accused of these crimes then that is altogether a different matter.

    Seriously, if an American (or anyone else for that matter) committed these same crimes in Saudi then most likely everyone would want justice to be done and we are all well aware of the punishments meted out here.

    We may not like the laws of particular lands but if you visit them then you had better well abide by them otherwise you lose. I’m tired of hearing people cry foul when they get caught breaking laws in foreign lands!

    Now, as a Muslim, I feel for Homaidan but if he truly is guilty then I don’t care if the King himself made a plea on that video then he must accept responsibility for his actions and serve his time.

    I agree that the act of making this video is a good example of how Saudis can better utilize social media for various causes. But this in my opinion is not a good cause. What sort of message is this sending out about Saudis? About Muslims? What does this teach to our children?

    This has serious implications that should be addressed before more people jump on the bandwagon of supporting a possible criminal.

    I don’t want to sound insensitive here. I don’t know the details of his case but 28 yrs does sound excessive. I wouldn’t disagree so much if they were rallying to have his term shortened as opposed to a full out pardon from Obama.

    I would respect Homaidan a lot more if he would serve his term (hopefully less than 28yrs) quietly and in a dignified manner.

  5. “The goal of the video, according to the website, is to deliver the Saudi point of view on this issue. I think this goal has been reached.”

    OK, just watched the video which was very well done! However, the Saudi point of view is that he is one of them, he is benevolent, he has a family waiting for him, this pardon would bridge Islam and the West…OK. No one there cares that he was convicted of criminal acts? They just want justice thrown aside so children can have their father back? I sympathize with the young girl, truly! Her words are touching. But, unfortunately, when your father does something wrong,he must pay for his crimes.

    All of this is assuming, of course, that he is guilty of what he was accused of. I have no reason to believe he is innocent, but only God knows.

    Great video. Terrible message of OKaying crime. Is this the Saudi way?

  6. In the US there is a saying “if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime” I guess Homaidan didn’t know that.

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