Saudi Arabia executes 81 people

CAIRO — Saudi Arabia said on Saturday it had put 81 people to death in what was the kingdom’s largest mass execution in years, despite r...


CAIRO — Saudi Arabia said on Saturday it had put 81 people to death in what was the kingdom’s largest mass execution in years, despite recent promises to limit its use of the death penalty.

In one declaration published by the official Saudi Press Agency, the Saudi Interior Ministry said the people were executed for “multiple heinous crimes that resulted in a large number of civilian and law enforcement deaths” . He did not specify how they were executed.

Among those killed were seven Yemenis and one Syrian, he added. The others were Saudis.

Rights groups condemned the executions, saying they went against claims by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, de facto rulerthat the country was the overhaul of its judicial system and limit its use of the death penalty.

“These executions are the opposite of justice,” said Ali Adubusi, director of the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights, a watchdog group. He said that in many cases the charges against the defendant involved “not a drop of blood”.

Saudi Arabia has attempted to clean up its image in recent years as it seeks to attract more tourists and businesses. But his war in Yemen, the 2018 Assassination of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in a Saudi consulate and the crackdown on dissent have left lasting marks on his reputation.

Mr Adubusi’s rights group said that of the cases it was able to monitor and document among the 81 people executed, it found no charges deserving the death penalty under the criteria that Saudi Arabia has made public. Some of the charges were related to participating in human rights protests, the group said.

He said he was unable to document many cases due to the lack of transparency in the Saudi justice system and because family members of some of the defendants were threatened and intimidated.

Rights groups said many of those executed were from Saudi Arabia’s Shia Muslim minority, which has long disagreed with the government over discrimination against Shias.

This may have played a role in the sudden appearance on Sunday of a report in Nournews, an Iranian news site linked to the country’s security establishment, announcing that Iran had “temporarily” suspended recent talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The two countries are regional rivals whose hostility has fueled conflicts in the Middle East, but started talks last year to ease tensions related to the war in Yemen and Iran-backed militias in Iraq.

Part of their rivalry centers on sectarian competition: Saudi Arabia is predominantly Sunni, while Iran is predominantly Shia. Iraq’s foreign minister, who had mediated between the two sides, had earlier said a fifth round of talks was to be held in Baghdad on Wednesday, although Iran did not confirm the date.

The Saudi government said last year it had suspended capital punishment for drug offences, leading to an 85% drop in executions in 2020. It also pledged to stop executing people who had committed their crimes as children.

The crown prince said he was pushing to change Saudi law to reduce the penalty for certain offenses from the death penalty to life in prison, although he said capital punishment would still apply where the Islamic scriptures required it.

The Home Office statement said the crimes of those executed included murder; pledge allegiance to foreign terrorist groups, including the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda; and traveling to join such groups, as well as the loosely worded offense of “targeting residents of the kingdom”.

Others have been found guilty of targeting government employees and “vital economic sites,” smuggling weapons into the kingdom, killing law enforcement officers, and having planted landmines which the ministry said were intended for use against police vehicles.

“The kingdom will continue to take a strict and unwavering stance against terrorism and extremist ideologies that threaten stability around the world,” the ministry said.

The ministry said the defendants were able to exercise “all their rights under Saudi law” in Saudi courts, including the right to counsel. But the Saudi European Human Rights Organization said it had documented cases in which defendants were denied access to a lawyer, tortured and held incommunicado.

“The world should know by now that when Mohammed bin Salman promises reform, bloodshed will follow,” said Soraya Bauwens, deputy director of Reprieve, an advocacy group that tracks executions in Saudi Arabia, on Saturday.

Noting that Western countries were looking to Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s largest oil producers, to help them bridge the oil supply gap, while many countries avoid energy from russia because of President Vladimir V. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, she added: “We cannot show our revulsion for Putin’s atrocities by rewarding those of the Crown Prince.

Human rights groups said the number of executions carried out on Saturday far exceeded those put to death in the kingdom’s last two mass executions: one in 2019, in which 37 people were executed. killed, and the other in 2016, in which 47 people were executed.

Asmaa al-Omar contributed reporting from Beirut, Lebanon.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Saudi Arabia executes 81 people
Saudi Arabia executes 81 people
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