In a final effort to exonerate two Qatari men convicted in the murder of British teacher Lauren Patterson, a defense lawyer yesterday accused prison guards of torturing his clients and holding them in solitary confinement between their interviews with prosecutors.
The attorney did not elaborate on his torture claim, which was not raised in last year’s criminal trial that ended in Badr Hashim Khamis Abdallah al-Jabar being sentenced to death and Mohamed Abdallah Hassan Abdul Aziz ordered to spend three years in prison for helping al-Jabar burn Patterson’s body, as well as for damaging and erasing evidence.
The 24-year-old woman briefly went missing in October 2013 after leaving a La Cigale nightclub with the two men, who would later be convicted in her death.
During yesterday’s appeal hearing, the defense lawyer for the two men once again repeated the argument that al-Jabar killed Patterson in self-defense and attacked Patterson’s moral character, calling her “promiscuous,” an “excessive drinker” and “irrational.”
The defense lawyer has spent considerable time in previous hearings dwelling on Patterson’s drinking habits.
A friend of Patterson’s, who was the last person to see the British teacher alive before she left La Cigale with al-Jabar has testified that Patterson was not drunk that night and was in a sound frame of mind.
The lawyer also attacked the prosecutor’s handling of the case, saying he “convicted them without a trial” and that his actions prior to the start of the hearing “lacked legitimacy.”
He said the two men were kept in solitary confinement for more than 40 days and spent more than two weeks in custody before being allowed to speak to a lawyer. He also said prison guards would enter their cells every half hour to threaten and torture the men.
This would have tainted any statements the men gave prosecutors, the defense lawyer said.
He was also critical of a videotaped reenactment of Patterson’s death that was played in court last November that illustrated al-Jabar’s argument that he stabbed the woman in self-defense.
The defense lawyer noted that the prosecutor can be heard instructing the defendant to “re-enact what you told me” during their previous interview. He suggested al-Jabar was following a narrative constructed by the prosecutor and should have been told to “re-enact what actually happened.”
The attorney did not articulate any differences between al-Jabar’s video-taped account and “what actually happened.”
He also alleged that the camera was stopped at one point so police officers could take al-Jabar into a private room on the upper level of his villa for 10 minutes. While the defense lawyer didn’t speculate in court about what took place during that time, he said al-Jabar “came down a better actor than Omar Sharif.”
The defense lawyer concluded his closing remarks by saying:
“It’s the court’s duty to try and find every possible way to exonerate this Muslim man of the crime of murder.”
The prosecutor opened by saying he had predicted what the defense lawyer would argue and that he had typed up a list of rebuttals in advance, which he submitted in writing.
He then rejected the defense lawyer’s critique of the investigation, later saying al-Jabar “ambushed” Patterson. Instead of driving the teacher and her friend to Patterson’s home as promised, he dropped the friend off first in order to take advantage of Patterson and “do what he did to her.”
“We are here in Qatar,” he said, tapping the judge’s desk with his hand for emphasis. “And Qatar is a country of justice. The person who gets presented to court and convicted is one who has solid evidence against them.”
Following yesterday’s hearing, Patterson’s mother, Alison, said she has seen “nothing but genuine honesty, clarity and a need for the truth to prevail” on the part of prosecutors.
She also took exception to the “attempted character assassination” of her daughter by the defense lawyer, saying he provided no evidence to back up his statements. She continued:
“Lauren was a hard-working girl who loved her job and spent most evenings of her time after work giving private tuition to pupils in their homes or studying to complete her degree. All of which can be corroborated, unlike the defense’s story.
While he attacked my daughters character, he forgot to mention that his clients regularly frequented bars and consumed alcohol.”
Alison Patterson also noted that the defense lawyer did not address what the men are accused of doing to her daughter’s body following her death:
“If it was self defense, why did the lawyer not mention them removing my daughter’s body to the desert by car, purchasing coal and fuel and burning her body beyond recognition and then going back to the scene to make sure they had burnt her body? If it was self defense, would you do that?”
During yesterday’s hearing, her lawyer asked that the family’s request for QR20 million in compensation from the convicted men be referred to a civil court. Financial settlements are a common feature in serious court cases in Qatar.
A final verdict is scheduled for March 23.