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Saudi Arabia: Syrian convict’s beheading comes as third in 2015

Saudi Arabia: Syrian convict’s beheading comes as third in 2015

SAUDI ARABIA: As the third execution of the year 2015 in the rich-oil kingdom Saudi Arabia, a Syrian culprit was beheaded for doing drug trafficking, the interior ministry announced.

Mohammed al-Mahameed was caught smuggling a significant amount of amphetamines, the ministry said in a statement carried by the SPA state news agency. He was beheaded in the northern Jawf region. Two Saudis convicted of drug trafficking were executed in Eastern Province on the first day of the year. The kingdom executed 87 people last year, according to an AFP tally, up from 78 executions recorded in 2013.

Rape, murder, apostasy and armed robbery are also punishable by death under the kingdom’s medieval interpretation of Islamic Sharia law.

Human rights organizations and activists have called on Saudi Arabia to overturn the death sentences, 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.  The new Saudi Terrorism law issued early this year casts a wide net over what it considers to be “terrorism.” Under the law, punishable offenses include”calling for atheist thought in any form,” “throwing away loyalty to the country’s rulers,” and “seeking to shake the social fabric or national cohesion.”

Human Rights Watch urged the Saudi authorities to abolish the Specialized Criminal Court, the body that sentenced the five activists and many others to death, saying that analysis revealed “serious due process concerns” such as “broadly framed charges,” “denial of access to lawyers,” and “quick dismissal of allegations of torture without investigation.”

In September, two independent human rights experts working on behalf of the United Nations expressed concern about the judicial process in Saudi Arabia and called for an immediate moratorium on the death penalty.

“Despite several calls by human rights bodies, Saudi Arabia continues to execute individuals with appalling regularity and in flagrant disregard of international law standards,” said Christof Heyns, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

Moreover, Saudi Arabia implements a wide range of brutal punishments, including flogging, hefty fines and exaggerated prison sentences, for minor crimes.

More than 2,000 people were executed in the Gulf state between 1985 and 2013, Amnesty International claimed in a report.

According to Amnesty, trials in capital cases are often held in secret.

Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program, said the fact “that people are tortured into confessing to crimes, convicted in shameful trials without adequate legal support and then executed is a sickening indictment of the Kingdom’s state-sanctioned brutality.”