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Lawyers hopeful for 'sorcerer' on death row

By Mohammed Jamjoom, CNN
Ali Hussain Sibat pictured with two of his five children.
Ali Hussain Sibat pictured with two of his five children.
  • Lawyer says Hussain Sibat may yet be spared from execution for "sorcery"
  • Sibat used to offer predictions and advice to callers on a Lebanese television network
  • Sibat arrested, tried and sentenced during pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia

A Lebanese man sentenced to die for "sorcery" in Saudi Arabia remains on death row but may not be executed -- at least not yet, the man's lawyer said.

May El Khansa said that Lebanon's justice minister met with Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Lebanon this week in an effort to spare the life of her client, Ali Hussain Sibat.

The Saudi ambassador told Lebanon's justice minister, Ibrahim Najjar, that Sibat wouldn't be beheaded because a final verdict had not been reached, El Khansa said, citing an account of the conversation that she received from the Lebanese justice minister.

Religious police in Saudi Arabia charged Sibat with sorcery as he visited the country in 2008. A court convicted him and sentenced him to death.

Saudi authorities have not disclosed details of the charge for which Sibat has been condemned. They also have declined to comment about the case.

Najjar could not be reached for comment this week, but he has told CNN that he considered the sentence "disproportionate."

"As far as I know, such an act doesn't deserve such a punishment," he said last month, "unless there is something else -- something that I have not had the possibility to study or to examine myself."

Sibat used to offer predictions and advice to callers on a Lebanese television network. Saudi Arabia's religious police charged him with sorcery while he was on an Islamic pilgrimage in the countr€y in 2008.

Outraged international rights groups have called on Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah to pardon Sibat.

Video: Lawyer: 'Sorcerer' sentence delayed
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  • Saudi Arabia
  • Lebanon

His lawyer says her conversation with the Lebanese justice minister gave her reason to hope.

"I trust Miniser Najjar," El Khansa told CNN, "and I know he's doing so much to make sure Ali Sibat will be released.

"I have put my trust in the Saudi justice system and hope he will soon be allowed to come back to Lebanon," said El Khansa, who has asked Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah to pardon her client.

Sibat, the married father of five, was convicted by a court in Medina and sentenced to death in November, El Khansa said. He appealed, and his case was sent back to the trial court for reconsideration. But the judges in Medina upheld their original verdict in March, she said.

Sibat's wife made an emotional plea for mercy last month.

"All I ask is for the Saudi king and the Saudi government to show him mercy -- let him come back to his country and his family," Samira Rahmoon said.