03/29/2012 07:44 EDT | Updated 05/29/2012 05:12 EDT

Canadian William Sampson Who Faced Saudi Torture Dies


William Sampson, a Canadian man who faced beheading in Saudi Arabia after he said he had been tortured and falsely convicted of bombing attacks in 2000, has died at age 52.

In August 2003, Sampson, along with his five British co-accused, was released from prison after Saudi King Fahd granted clemency to the six men.

He was living in northern England at the time of his death from an apparent heart attack.

Sampson had been accused by Saudi authorities of carrying out bombings that killed a British man and wounded several others.

Sampson, who had been working in Riyadh as a consultant, appeared on Saudi Arabian television confessing to the November 2000 car bombings.

Sampson later said he had repeatedly told Canadian consular officials he was being tortured, but they did little or nothing to help him, and he spent more than 2½ years behind bars.

Testifying at a House of Commons committee in November 2003, Sampson lashed out at Canada's Foreign Affairs Department, saying officials offered no support while he was imprisoned.

Sampson begged to confess after torture, he said

In a September 2003 interview with the CBC's Peter Mansbridge, Sampson described how after six days of torture he had begged to confess. Within an hour of his arrest his brutal treatment began, he said.

"Beating, kicking, punching, being bounced off the wall, being knocked to the floor, being kicked while I was on the floor," Sampson said.

"The worst that I endured of it at the time was being hung upside down and beaten across the backside, the feet, the scrotum. The pain from that is just incredible. I just felt like my entire body was about to explode out of my ears and my eyes."

Sampson said he didn't believe Saudi authorities ever regarded him and his co-accused as responsible for the bombings.

"I suspect they were trying to find a convenient group of people to pin the bombings on that were not Saudi Arabian.

"This wasn't a mistake. This was an attempt to fit people into a frame … so that they wouldn't have to externally admit that they have internal dissent, a problem with political internal dissent."

Around the same time, Osama bin Laden had issued a statement demanding that all foreigners leave Saudi Arabia.

A U.K. court granted Sampson and three Britons the right to sue their Saudi captors in October 2004, but in June 2006, Britain's top court ruled that the Saudi individuals were protected by state immunity laws.