Supporters of a Canadian who said he was mistakenly charged with murder, tortured and held in solitary confinement for close to three years in a Saudi Arabian jail expressed sadness and a hope for “justice” after reports surfaced of his death.
William Sampson, 52, suffered a heart attack in England this week, according to filmmaker David Paperny, who directed a 2007 documentary about Sampson’s ordeal.
Former Liberal MP Dan McTeague, who had worked to help free Sampson and criticized the Canadian government’s response after his arrest overseas in 2000, said he was “shocked” to hear of Sampson’s death.
“His death is not in vain,” he said. “His ordeal taught the Canadian government to be more proactive in the release of Canadians wrongfully tortured and detained overseas.”
Paperny, whose documentary about Sampson was titled Confessions of An Innocent Man, said he received confirmation about Sampson’s death from his family.
Paperny said Sampson was “a brave man who had been put through hell.”
“It was sad he was never able to turn a corner (from) his days in Saudi Arabia,” he said.
Sampson was pardoned and released in 2003, along with three Britons who were charged with terrorist bombings and murder.
“It’s a serious loss (of) a man who endured real torture and (was) accused of something he didn’t do,” McTeague said. “He had to spend his life explaining and trying to clear his name because the charge remained, notwithstanding (his) release.”
Sampson was sentenced to public beheading in Saudi Arabia, after a confession that Sampson said was coerced under torture.
Sampson, who was a businessman working in the country, alleged he was suspended upside down for hours, beaten on the soles of his feet, shackled to his door to prevent him from sleeping and assaulted until he admitted to being part of the two bombings.
A campaign for his release was successful, leading to the pardon of all three men. However, he was never cleared of the murder charges.
After his release, Sampson spent almost a decade trying to clear his name; he tried to sue his alleged torturers, but was unsuccessful. In 2006, Britain’s highest court ruled that he couldn’t proceed because foreign government officials are protected by diplomatic immunity.
Paperny said Sampson was seeking justice until his life ended, referring to Sampson’s pending case before the European Court of Human Rights.
Sampson and the three Britons, who all allege torture, were seeking to bring a civil suit against Saudi Arabia and certain officials.
“(Sampson) received no justice in his time,” Paperny said. “Perhaps . . . if the European Court hears his case, justice will finally be done.”