DENVER – A convicted Saudi felon who was sentenced to 28 years in prison after being convicted by a Colorado jury for imprisoning his housekeeper and holding her as a sex slave could soon be released from prison.
Homaidan al-Turki, a Saudi citizen whose 2006 case made headlines and triggered national outrage when he was arrested for imprisoning and sexually abusing his maid in the basement of his Aurora home, has asked to be repatriated to Saudi Arabia under the terms of a bilateral treaty.
If the Hickenlooper administration agrees to the request, al-Turki could return to Saudi Arabia after serving less than one third of his original sentence in the United States.
Mr. al-Turki was convicted in 2006 for reportedly holding his maid against her will, paying her slave wages, and sexually assaulting her over a period of several years.
During his trial, al-Turki argued that he was a victim of anti-Muslim bias.
“We are Muslim. We are different. The state has criminalized these basic Muslim behaviors. Attacking traditional Muslim behaviors is a focal point of the prosecution,” al-Turki said during testimony.
The possibility of al-Turki’s release has roiled many, including 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler.
“It is completely unacceptable that a sex offender of any nationality be released before completing his sentence,” Brauchler told the Associated Press in February. “Mr. al-Turki has never accepted responsibility for his crimes nor undergone any rehabilitation as a sex offender. I am hopeful that the Department of Corrections will put the interests of justice and the protection of women above the interests of the Saudi government.”
Theoretically, Hickenlooper’s approval of al-Turki’s request would, with federal approval, send the convicted Saudi back to serve out the remainder of his term under the supervision of the Saudi criminal justice system.
But many, including Jihad Watch Director Robert Spencer, say that if al-Turki is allowed to return to Saudi Arabia, he may escape punishment for his crimes.
“Slavery, including sexual slavery, is sanctioned in Islamic law,” said Spencer. “Thus… what Homaidan al-Turki is accused of doing is not criminal activity in Saudi Arabia.”
“Sending [al-Turki] back [to Saudi Arabia] would be tantamount to freeing him, and to implicitly accepting the legitimacy of Islamic law and its precedence over American law,” Spencer added.
Former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo has suggested that foreign policy considerations might allow al-Turki to get off easy.
In a November 2006 letter to then-Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, the former Colorado lawmaker complained of Saudi interference in the al-Turki case amid reports that Attorney General John Suthers had traveled to Saudi Arabia to discuss the al-Turki affair with angry kingdom officials, including King Abdullah.
At the time, Tancredo characterized the trip as “an outrageous concession to Saudi arrogance.”
“I cannot find any similar case in Colorado history where our top law enforcement officer was asked to journey thousands of miles to placate officials of a foreign government with regard to a purely domestic matter within the heartland of the United States,” Tancredo wrote. “I would be interested to know if the State Department routinely pressures the Saudi government to send Saudi judicial authorities across the ocean to explain their legal proceedings [to the U.S.] … each time an American is jailed in the Kingdom.”
“The influence of Saudi petrodollars is not limited by partisan considerations,” Tancredo told The Observer on Friday.
According to the Associated Press, al-Turki’s repatriation request has “cleared reviews by prison officials and is awaiting final approval by Colorado Department of Corrections Director Tom Clements.”
Clements was appointed to his cabinet post by Hickenlooper in 2011.
If the Hickenlooper administration signs off on al-Turki’s request, federal officials would then conduct a review before allowing the convicted sex offender to return home to Saudi Arabia.
Hickenlooper’s office did not respond to a request from The Observer to comment on al-Turki’s repatriation request.
In addition to his conviction on the false imprisonment and sex offenses, al-Turki has come under scrutiny for his ties to Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Islamist cleric and al-Qaeda operative who was killed in a 2011 drone strike.
Al-Awlaki was involved in numerous terrorist attacks against the United States, including the massacre of U.S. soldiers at Fort Hood and a failed attempt to blow up an airplane on Christmas Day in 2009.