Saudi Arabia beheads 12 people in killing spree while attention on World Cup

Saudi Arabia has been accused of beheading 12 people while attention is diverted to the World Cup.

The Middle Eastern country is said to have executed a dozen men in 10 days despite the Crown Prince's promise to limit such forms of punishment.

According to the human rights organisation Reprieve, the defendants were sentenced to death after being jailed for non-violent drug offences.

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The organisation's director Maya Foa has warned how the death tally could soon increase to 13.

They highlighted the case of taxi driver Hussein Abo al-Kheir, who is facing execution in a Saudi prison.

Foa said: "While Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) was putting himself centre stage at the World Cup opening ceremony, seated next to Fifa supremo Gianni Infantino, taxi driver Hussein Abo al-Kheir was cowering in a cell, terrified that the executioner will take him next.

"While all eyes are on the football, Saudi Arabia is carrying out a horrifying execution spree, killing people like Hussein, an innocent man who was tortured by Saudi police to 'confess'.

"Saudi Arabia executed more people than ever before in the first six months of this year, and has now begun executing drug offenders, in large numbers and in secret, as the world focuses on its neighbour."

According to the non-profit organisation, which gathered data on this week's executions, most of the defendants were beheaded with a sword.

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Three of the men executed were Pakistani, four Syrian, two Jordanian and three Saudi, Reprieve said.

Another man from Jordan was reportedly transferred to a prison wing and is due to be executed on Friday, the NGO added.

The latest figures bring the total number of people executed in Saudi Arabia this year to at least 132 – which is more than the number of Saudi executions in 2020 and 2021 combined.

In 2018, Crown Prince bin Salman said his administration was looking to "minimise" capital punishment and only execute people found guilty of murder or manslaughter.

Following the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, Saudi Arabia proposed to change the law and end the death penalty for drug and other non-violent offences.

Human rights groups fear the rapid escalation of death penalties could see the country break its grim record of 186 killings throughout the whole of 2019, reports Daily Mail.

In August, the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights criticised the country's justice system, claiming it has betrayed promises to reduce torture and killings in its penal system.

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In its report, the group drew attention to a mass beheading of 81 criminals on March 12 – when more than 70% of the victims were killed for their involvement in non-fatal crimes.

Of the total number killed, 41 men – over 50% – were slaughtered for taking part in pro-democracy demonstrations.

To justify the killings, the Saudi leadership branded the men "terrorists" before putting them before their executioners.

The ESOHR reported that at least three of the men provided credible claims they had been tortured and their confessions forced.


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