Babylon & Beyond

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SAUDI ARABIA: Amnesty International calls for halt to execution of man accused of sorcery

March 31, 2010 |  1:47 pm

The human rights group Amnesty International has issued an emergency appeal to Lebanese authorities to try to halt the anticipated execution of a Lebanese national in Saudi Arabia on charges of sorcery.

In the appeal issued late Wednesday, Amnesty urged Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who grew up in the Saudi kingdom and maintains strong ties to the royal family, to try to halt the execution of Ali Hussein Sibat, scheduled to die Thursday.

Sibat, a former television show host, was convicted late last year on charges of sorcery for making predictions on his program. He was arrested by the kingdom's dreaded morality police in 2008 while there on a religious pilgrimage.

"Ali Hussein Sibat appears to have been convicted solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression," Malcolm Smart, director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa program, said in a statement distributed to the news media.

"We urge the Lebanese authorities to do all they can to prevent this execution," Smart said. "We are calling on King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia not to let this or other executions go ahead. It is high time the Saudi Arabian government joined the international trend towards a worldwide moratorium on executions."

After months of legal back and forth, a high court judge confirmed the death sentence on grounds that his televised prognostications “made him an infidel.”

-- Los Angeles Times