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Thai-Saudi Relations

Saudi embassy 'upset but not surprised'

THE SAUDI ARABIAN embassy and relatives of a Saudi businessman whose mysterious disappearance 24 years ago upset Thai-Saudi relations voiced disappointment over a court ruling yesterday that dismissed a case against five police officers.

The Embassy's Charge D'affaires Abdulelah al-Sheaiby said he would report the ruling to the Saudi government, which will consider the next moves in regard to bilateral relations.

The Criminal Court yesterday dismissed charges in the high-profile trial of five Thai police accused of snatching and murdering Mohammad al-Ruwaili, a Saudi businessman with close links to the Saudi palace, in 1990.

The court said the charges were dismissed because the public prosecutors' evidence was weak and failed to convince the court that the officers had been involved in the murder and kidnapping.

Abdulelah al-Sheaiby said at a press conference later he was not surprised by the ruling. His side had doubted the |fairness of the trial after learning about the abrupt change of the judge shortly before the ruling.

He described Thai-Saudi relations as being "on-and-off" for a long period and noted "there is nothing that could make it worse".

"My side was already worried that the ruling would not be in line with the facts after learning that there was a change of judge," he said.

"I want to stress that Saudi Arabia is disappointed with the ruling."

He called for the media to consider the reasons behind the change in the judges, saying this could only lead to criticism and questions.

Speaking at the same press conference, Ateeq al-Ruwaili, the businessman's brother, said he was very disappointed with the ruling and expressed the view that the change of judge had made the trial unfair.

Lawyer Anek Kamchoom said his clients were not happy with the ruling but he would certainly submit an appeal, as allowed, within 30 days.

The disappearance of the businessman, along with the theft of invaluable jewels by a Thai janitor from a Saudi palace and the killing of three Saudi diplomats in Bangkok between 1989 and 1990, has severely strained Thai-Saudi relations.

The businessman is thought to have been abducted and killed |while police were searching for the jewellery.


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