ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. - A Saudi national, who is serving an eight-years-to-life sentence for repeatedly sexually assaulting his housekeeper, is seeking to spend the rest of his sentence in his native country.
Homaidan Al-Turki wore shackles and red prison garb during a hearing in Arapahoe District Court.
Al-Turki was convicted in 2006 of unlawful sexual contact by use of force, theft and extortion. He was initially sentenced to 28 years to life in prison.
A judge in 2011 reduced al-Turki’s minimum sentence by 20 years, based on a Colorado Supreme Court ruling.
Al-Turki maintains his innocence and says the charges stem from anti-Muslim sentiment following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Authorities say that al-Turki and his wife brought an Indonesian housekeeper to Colorado to care for their five children and to cook and clean.
According to an FBI affidavit, the Indonesian woman told investigators she baby-sat, cooked and cleaned seven days a week with no regular days off from 2000 to 2004 while living with Al-Turki's family in suburban Aurora.
The affidavit claims that when she was not working, the woman was confined to an unheated basement where she slept on a mattress on the concrete floor and was repeatedly raped and fondled by al-Turki.
The woman said she was paid less than $2 a day for her services and that al-Turki kept her passport so that she couldn't leave.
Defense attorneys say their client should have access to a sex offender treatment program that takes into account his religious and cultural beliefs and one that would be closer to his family. They say the cultural support in Saudi Arabia would be beneficial to his treatment.
But prosecutors doubt cultural support in Saudi Arabia will mean any more to Al-Turki than it did here. They note that Al-Turki committed the crimes in his (Aurora) home with his wife and children upstairs. They say, at the time, he was a member of a local mosque, owned a Muslim book store and regularly attended a Saudi club.
Al-Turki’s wife and children have since moved back to Saudi Arabia, where the case has generated a lot of attention.
Nearly two dozen Saudi nationals, many of them students who don’t know the defendant, showed up at the court hearing after seeing numerous Facebook and Twitter postings.
A campaign on Twitter using the hashtag #1000_Children_for_AITurki has shown kids holding signs asking for al-Turki's release. It also asked supporters to go to attend the hearing.
“We got a lot of motivation from people in Saudi Arabia to ‘go to the court, give us the news and find out what’s going on,’” said UC-Denver student Abdullah Al-Mutairi.
“I don’t know if he’s guilty or not,” said fellow UC-D student Abdullah Al-Bishri. “But people in Saudi Arabia talk like he’s not guilty, so we just came here to see the issue and give him some (emotional) support.”
There is heavy security in place at the Arapahoe County Courthouse. Snipers stood on the roof of the jail and on the roofs of the Justice Center buildings. In addition to the security checkpoint at the main entrance, a secondary checkpoint was set up just outside the courtroom.
Al-Turki had previously requested a foreign national offender transfer so he could serve his sentence in his home country. However prosecutors opposed the application, fearing he would have been released upon returning to Saudi Arabia. Colorado prison officials turned down the request saying that al-Turki had refused to participate in sex offender rehabilitation programs.
At Thursday's hearing, a representative from the Saudi Arabian embassy said if al-Turki is allowed to go back, the country would commit to upholding Colorado law for al-Turki's probation sentence. That means he would likely remain on probation for 10 years to life.
Al-Turki’s brother told the court that their mother is ill and that Al-Turki’s family is suffering financially while he is in prison.