Saudi Arabia carries out two beheadings, prepares to flog activist

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Al-Akhbar Management

Published Thursday, January 8, 2015

Saudi Arabia on Thursday beheaded a Pakistani man convicted of drug smuggling and a Saudi for murder, the interior ministry said.

Meanwhile, Saudi liberal activist Raif Badawi, who was sentenced to prison and flogging, will face a first round of lashes on Friday, rights watchdog Amnesty International said on Thursday.

The executions bring to six the number of people beheaded since the start of 2015 in the conservative Muslim kingdom.

Awida Utaibi was executed after a court found him guilty of murdering a relative, the ministry said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

Mohammed Shahbal of Pakistan was beheaded for smuggling heroin into the country. The drugs were found in capsules he had swallowed.

Last year, Saudi Arabia executed 87 people, up from 78 in 2013, according to an AFP tally.

Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are punishable by death in the kingdom.

Activist sentenced to 1,000 lashes

Badawi, who set up the "Free Saudi Liberals" website, was arrested in June 2012 and charged with offenses ranging from cyber crime to disobeying his father and apostasy, or abandoning his faith.

He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, a fine of 1 million Saudi riyals ($266,666) and 1,000 lashes last year after prosecutors challenged an earlier sentence of seven years and 600 lashes as being too lenient.

"Amnesty International has learned that the imprisoned Saudi Arabian activist Raif Badawi will be flogged in public after Friday prayers tomorrow in front of al-Jafali mosque in Jeddah," the international rights group said in a statement.

It said Badawi would receive 50 lashes on Friday and the rest of the sentence would be carried out over a period of 50 weeks.

Badawi’s website included articles critical of senior Saudi religious figures and others from Muslim history.

A spokesman for the oil-rich Gulf kingdom's Justice Ministry was not immediately available for comment.

Saudi Arabia on Wednesday condemned the killings of 12 people in an attack on a French satirical newspaper which had lampooned Islam. But it has also in the past called for an international law to criminalize insults to the world's major religions.

Saudi Arabia's legal code follows a medieval version of Sharia law. Judges are trained as religious scholars and have a broad scope to base verdicts and sentences on their own interpretation of religious texts.

The new Saudi terrorism law issued early this year casts a wide net over what it considers to be “terrorism.”

Human rights organizations and activists have called on Saudi Arabia to end death sentences and other brutal punishments, accusing the Saudi regime of curbing freedom of speech and opinion.

Political activism can also be penalized by death, as US-ally Saudi Arabia, like neighboring Bahrain, has taken a zero tolerance approach to all attempts at protest or dissent in the kingdom, including by liberal rights activists, Islamists, and members of the Shia minority.

Saudi judges have this year passed death sentences down to five pro-democracy advocates, including prominent activist and cleric Nimr al-Nimr, for their part in protests.

(AFP, Reuters, Al-Akhbar)

Comments

Where the hell is Gulf kingdom? I thought you once said you will not use Gulf except when it is in a quote. Remember?

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