Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

A Saudi Prince and a Murderer

The Gay Factor


Als Saud in court
Als Saud in court
The trial took a surprising twist when Al Saud adamantly denied in court that his relationship with Abdulaziz was anything more than platonic. He maintained throughout the trial that the pair was merely friends, and he denied committing any homosexual acts during his stay in London or anytime else. The prosecutors, however, brought in a string of witnesses who testified to the contrary.

One of the witnesses worked for a gay escort service. He described meeting with Al Saud in his hotel room where Al Saud paid for and received a sexual massage. Al Saud booked another appointment with a gay masseuse as well as with a gay escort service. Other evidence included sexually graphic photos of Abdulaziz on his cell phone as well as computer records showing he had looked at hundreds of images of gay pornography on the Internet. A gay travel guide was found in the room.

The prosecution also emphasized that Mr. Saud's attacks were of a sexual nature.

"[Detectives] believe their relationship was more like an old style 'master and servant,' with Al Saud dominating the victim who appeared submissive in his presence," investigating officials said in a statement. "During the trial, the prosecution also stated that they had a homosexual relationship and argued that there was a sexual element to the murder."

Gregory Gause
Gregory Gause
Gause pointed out that Saudi Arabian princes do not routinely have personal valets like those traditional in English society. "When I heard of the 'master and servant' [relationship], it sounded atypical to me," Gause said. "Saudi princes might have a retinue, with several assistants, but not a one-on-one servant. It is not a trend I have observed, and obviously, there was more than just companionship going on [between Al Saud and Mr. Abdulaziz]."

Al Saud's defense attorneys would not return truTV's numerous phone calls or respond to emails when queried about its strategy. Nor would the prosecution comment on how Al Saud's sexual orientation was relevant to the trial facts. But if Al Saud and Abdulaziz were gay lovers, could that have served as a mitigating defense? If Al Saud's rage erupted after a lover's quarrel, would that have helped his case by indicating that his death blows were the result of a blinding rage of a spurned lover?

The prosecutors also said that under Shariah law, the strict Wahabbist interpretation of which is still the law of the land in Saudi Arabia, homosexual activity is punishable by death. Al Saud's lawyer Kelsey-Fry said that Al Saud risked punishment in Saudi Arabia for homosexual sexual behavior only if it became an established fact.

Meanwhile, the prosecutor's assertion that Al Saud was covering up his sexuality to avoid being executed in his home country was widely reported in the British tabloid press. However, the sensationalist scenario that Al Saud may one day face a public beheading in Saudi Arabia for his homosexual acts or for murder is highly unlikely, Gause said.

"It's not publicly acceptable to be an outed homosexual in Saudi Arabia, but the risk is more social than legal," Gause said. "I have never heard of a case when homosexuals were even put in jail and I have never heard of someone publicly acknowledging their homosexuality there, either"

Indeed, there is a large chasm between official statutes of Islamic law and its application, especially when it comes to members of the royal family in Saudi Arabia, Gause said. Even if homosexual activity is punishable by death, it is almost impossible that Al Saud will be executed for it one day in his home country.

"The rules of Islamic law are stringent and even adultery carries the death penalty, but it is hard to prosecute it," Gause said. "It is the potential social repercussions that might be significant if [Al Saud] would have publicly acknowledged publicly that he was a homosexual. I have never heard of the death penalty raised in the context of homosexuality."

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