Babylon & Beyond

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SAUDI ARABIA: A rise in executions

October 14, 2008 |  7:31 am

Saudi_beheading_2 Amnesty International reports that Saudi Arabia has executed 71 people through the end of August this year.

Nearly half of them were foreigners, including migrant workers who don’t understand Saudi laws, have no political connections and are too poor to pay “blood money” that would spare them.

“We have witnessed a sharp rise in executions of prisoners sentenced in largely secret and unfair trials,” states a new Amnesty report urging a moratorium on the death penalty.

“The death penalty is carried out disproportionately and discriminately on national or ethnic grounds.”

The report continues:

“Judges, all men, have wide discretion and can hand down death sentences for vaguely worded and non-violent offenses. Some migrant workers have even been unaware that they had been sentenced to death until the very morning of their execution.”

Beheading is the preferred method of execution. It can be carried out on cases including murder, adultery, robbery, sorcery and using God's name in vain. Amnesty International reported that 158 people were put to death in 2007, up from about 39 in 2006. Foreign workers account for 7 million of Saudi Arabia's population of 27 million.   

-- Jeffrey Fleishman in Cairo

Photo: A beheading in Saudi Arabia. Credit:

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