CENTENNIAL, Colo. | On the surface, Homaidan al-Turki may not seem like the world’s most sympathetic prison inmate, given his 2006 conviction for keeping his Indonesian housekeeper as a sex slave for four years.
But that hasn’t deterred his supporters in Saudi Arabia and the U.S., who have launched an international campaign to push for al-Turki’s release from a Colorado prison and return to his home in Riyadh.
An Arapahoe County judge is expected to rule in the next 60 days whether al-Turki can return to Saudi Arabia. His attorneys argue that he has logged the minimum of his sentence of eight years to life and should be able to serve out his probation in his homeland.
Meanwhile, Saudi officials continue their years-long call for al-Turki’s return while backers ramp up a social-media blitz to gain sympathy for his predicament.
The hashtag #colorado_free_alturki was the second-highest trending topics on Twitter over the weekend, following the conclusion of hearings Friday in Arapahoe County Court. Other popular hashtags include #colorado_free_homaidan and #1000_children_for_alturki.
Thousands of tweets, written in both English and Arabic, repeated messages like, “He needs his family and his family need [sic] him” and “Free Mr. alturki, his children are waiting for him.” Photos include shots of al-Turki hugging his young daughter and Saudi schoolchildren holding up pro-Turki signs.
“America only proves more to the Muslim world how unjust she behaves towards Muslims,” said a tweet sent Saturday.
A member of a wealthy Saudi family, al-Turki maintains his innocence and blames the sentence on anti-Muslim sentiment. He has hired top Denver defense attorney Hal Haddon, who represented Kobe Bryant in a 2003 sexual assault case in Eagle, Colo., that was ultimately dismissed.
Still, the effort is meeting with resistance in Colorado, where prosecutors, politicians and publications are calling for al-Turki to remain behind bars. “Saudi sex offender should stay in Colo.,” said the headline of a Saturday editorial in the Denver Post.
Those who oppose deportation point out that al-Turki’s prison record isn’t spotless: He was denied parole earlier this year in part over his refusal to enter the mandatory sex offender treatment program.
“He refuses to participate in the program, he refuses to acknowledge any wrongdoing,” said Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler.
Last week’s testimony revealed that al-Turki is under investigation for whether he played a role in the murder of Department of Corrections chief Tom Clements, who was killed March 19 at his home by former inmate Evan Ebel.
The murder took place a week after Mr. Clements denied al-Turki’s transfer request, leading authorities to explore whether al-Turki ordered the hit. Ebel had been paroled Jan. 28 and was later killed in a high-speed chase with Texas police.
So far no charges have been brought, although al-Turki has been temporarily moved to a federal prison in Tucson, Ariz., said Angel Medina, assistant director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, in last week’s testimony.
Fahed al-Rawaf, a consular official from the Saudi embassy in Washington, testified last week that that al-Turki would receive more appropriate rehabilitation near his family and in an environment in sync with Islamic culture. He said Saudi Arabia would honor any conditions imposed on the transfer.
But prosecutors say returning al-Turki to Saudi Arabia would effectively give him a get-out-of-jail free card, given that his offenses are viewed in his country as less severe and may not even be considered criminal.
In 2000, al-Turki brought an 18-year-old Indonesian woman to cook and clean for his family, including his wife and five children, at their home in suburban Aurora. During the next four years, al-Turki held her against her will by refusing to return her passport and eventually subjected her to sexual abuse.
“For 4-1/2 years, the woman was a virtual slave,” said the Denver Post editorial. “She ironed, cleaned bathrooms and cooked meals for the family from dawn to dusk, earning less than $2 a day. Al-Turki gradually began directing sexually inappropriate behavior toward her, first watching her shower and eventually fondling and assaulting her.”
After al-Turki was sentenced in 2006, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers took the unusual step of flying to Riyadh to meet with Saudi royalty and assure them that al-Turki had been treated fairly by the court system. The trip was paid for by the State Department.
• This story is based in part on wire service reports.