A Canadian has been found guilty of murder in Saudi Arabia and sentenced to beheading, the Canadian government confirmed on Monday.
Mohamed Kohail, a 23-year-old Montrealer who has been living temporarily in Saudi Arabia, was convicted of killing an 18-year-old student in a schoolyard brawl in the city of Jeddah in January 2007.
He has 80 days to appeal his conviction.
"We are deeply disappointed at the verdict handed down by Saudi authorities," said Bernard Nguyen, a Canadian Foreign Affairs spokesman.
He said Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier and Secretary of State Helena Guergis had been briefed on the situation and are following it closely.
"We are in close contact with the family and continue to provide consular services," Nguyen said. "The family continues to explore other legal avenues, including an appeal of this verdict."
Nguyen would not elaborate, citing the family's privacy.
Family friends urged the Canadian government to intervene more forcefully, alleging that Kohail was the victim of an unfair investigation and trial.
"I want the government here to ask on what basis the Saudi government decided this was first-degree murder," Mayada Jabri told Info690, a Montreal radio station.
"It was the influence of the [victim's] family which got a verdict that was not fair. I only want justice."
One family friend, who asked not to be named, told the Canadian Press the court ignored evidence that would have cleared Kohail's name. He said the young man's lawyers were repeatedly denied access to the courtroom.
He said Kohail's parents are livid. "They don't believe by any means they got a fair trial," he said.
Called to school to defend brother
Kohail allegedly got involved in the deadly brawl after his brother, Sultan, 16, called him to the school begging for help. A boy had accused Sultan of insulting a girl at the school, and Sultan wanted his older brother to defend him.
According to the brothers' previous accounts, Kohail arrived at the school with a friend to find a group of men waiting for him, some armed with clubs and knives. A fight erupted and Syrian Haraki died during the brawl.
Both Kohail and his brother were arrested and jailed in Jeddah, although the Globe and Mail reports that the younger brother has since been freed.
Kohail grew up in Saudi Arabia, but moved to Montreal as a teenager. He and his family temporarily moved back to Saudi Arabia to attend a wedding, but intended to return to Montreal, where they still own a home.
Dan McTeague, the Liberal critic for consular services, said he hopes the federal government acts swiftly to secure Kohail's release. He also urged Ottawa to investigate allegations that Kohail's confessions were given under duress.