Saudi Arabia beheads five Yemenis, displays corpses
Published Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Updated 5:56 pm: Saudi Arabia on Tuesday beheaded five Yemenis and used cranes to hang their bodies in public for killing a national and forming a gang that committed robberies across several towns in the kingdom, the interior ministry said.
New York-based watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) slammed the punishment as "outrageous."
The ministry later also announced, in statements carried by the official SPA news agency, that a Saudi was beheaded in the southwestern region of Assir for the murder of a fellow citizen.
The five were executed in the town of Jizan, also southwest Saudi Arabia.
The beheadings bring the number of people executed in the kingdom this year to 47, according to an AFP tally.
A witness in Jizan told AFP that the five men were "beheaded by the sword" and displayed in public near a university.
Their bodies were removed from the area a few hours later, according to witnesses.
In a picture on Twitter, five men are seen hanging from a rope tied to their waists on a horizontal bar between two cranes, in a public display which Saudi authorities refer to as "crucifixion."
Their heads were placed in sacks and tied to their bodies.
— كمال العثمان (@Kamal070) May 21, 2013
The ministry said that Khaled, Adel and Qassem Saraa as well as Saif Ali al-Sahari and Khaled Showie al-Sahari had formed a gang which committed "several crimes in various regions in the kingdom and robbed stores."
The five had killed Ahmed Haroubi, a Saudi, by beating him up and strangling him, it said.
In remarks emailed to AFP, HRW's Middle East researcher Adam Coogle said "Saudi authorities have once again made headlines for beheading five men and displaying their decapitated bodies in public."
"Regardless of the accusations against them, this outrageous punishment serves as a gruesome reminder of the deficiencies of Saudi Arabia's criminal justice system," he said.
"If Saudi Arabia is serious about reform, as it has claimed, it should create a penal code, uphold fair trial rights, and cease using inhuman punishments."
In March, a Saudi firing squad executed in public seven men convicted of armed robbery despite last-minute appeals by rights groups at the time that their lives be spared.
In 2012, the kingdom executed 76 people, according to an AFP tally based on official figures. The US-based Human Rights Watch put the number at 69.
In March of this year, seven men convicted of armed robbery were executed in Saudi Arabia despite last-minute appeals by rights groups that their lives be spared.
The condemned men were similarly convicted of "forming a gang that carried out several armed robberies and thefts with the help of other people," the ministry said in a statement published by the official SPA news agency.
Saudi's authorities have frequently been criticized by rights groups for the rate of executions and for perceived lack of fair trials of those condemned.
Reports by Amnesty International document a policy of forced confessions by Saudi authorities through the use of torture, intimidation and coercion.
Haraba, a form of Islamic punishment used against thieves and charlatans, involves crucifixion.
Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery, drug trafficking, sorcery and witchcraft are all punishable by death under Saudi Arabia's strict version of sharia, or Islamic law.