Saudi Arabia executed 81 people in one day for terrorism-related crimes

Saudi Arabia said, on Saturday, that it executed 81 people in one day for terrorism-related crimes, exceeding the total number of deaths last year and drawing criticism from rights activists.

All of them were “convicted of multiple heinous crimes,” the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported, noting that among them were convicts linked to the Islamic State, al-Qaeda, the Yemeni rebel Houthi movement, or “other terrorist organizations.”

The wealthy Gulf state has one of the highest execution rates in the world, and previous executions have frequently been carried out by beheading.

The Saudi Press Agency statement said those executed had been convicted of plotting attacks in the kingdom – including killing a “large number” of civilians and members of the security forces.

“It also includes convictions for targeting government employees and vital economic sites, killing and mutilating law enforcement officers, and planting landmines to target police vehicles,” the agency said.

“The convictions include kidnapping, torture, rape, and smuggling weapons and bombs into the kingdom,” she added.

Of the 81 dead, 73 were Saudi citizens, and seven were Yemenis and a Syrian.

The commission said that all of those executed were tried in Saudi courts, where 13 judges supervised the trials, and were held in three separate stages for each individual.

“The kingdom will continue to take a firm and consistent stance against terrorism and extremist ideologies that threaten stability,” the agency added.

Saudi Arabia has been the target of a series of deadly shootings and bombings since late 2014 by Islamic State extremists.

The kingdom also leads a military coalition that has been fighting in Yemen since 2015 against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who in turn launched strikes on Saudi Arabia.

But the executions drew condemnation from Britain-based group Reprieve.

“Just last week, the Crown Prince (Mohammed bin Salman) told reporters that he plans to modernize the criminal justice system in Saudi Arabia, only to order the largest mass execution in the country’s history,” Reprieve said.

“There are Saudi prisoners of conscience on death row, and others who were arrested as children or accused of non-violent crimes. We fear for every one of them after this brutal display of impunity,” he added.

Saturday’s announcement of 81 deaths represents more than a total of 69 executions in the whole of 2021.

As of Saturday, Saudi Arabia in 2022 executed 11 people convicted of various crimes, according to an AFP tally based on an official announcement. This brings the total number of perpetrators this year so far to 92.

About 50 countries around the world still use the death penalty.

In 2020, 88 percent of the 483 reported executions were carried out in just four countries: Iran, with 246, followed by Egypt with 107, Iraq with 45, and Saudi Arabia, which carried out 27 that year, according to Amnesty International.

The death sentences were announced, Saturday, a day after the release of Saudi blogger and human rights activist Raif Badawi, who was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for insulting Islam.

But Badawi, who received just 50 lashes before stopping his sentence after a global condemnation, is now subject to a 10-year travel ban, officials confirmed to AFP Saturday.

This means the 38-year-old is unable to rejoin his wife Ensaf Haider and their three children in Canada, where they fled after his arrest.

In recent years, Saudi Arabia has announced a series of sentence reforms, including a moratorium on the death penalty for drug offenses, as well as abolition of court-ordered flogging.

In April 2020, the kingdom also announced that it would end the death penalty for those convicted of crimes they committed when they were under the age of 18.

A rights group and relatives of a Saudi man who was sentenced to death when he was a minor said, Saturday, that he was taken to hospital after he went on a hunger strike and collapsed.

Abdullah Al-Hwaiti, who was just 14 when he was arrested in 2017 for armed robbery and murder of a police officer, was first sentenced to death in 2019, with the sentence confirmed last month in a retrial.

“Abdullah went on a hunger strike and was taken to hospital after collapsing,” Reprieve said.


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