Saudi Arabia Carries Out Mass Execution of 81 People in Single-Day for Terrorism, Capital Crimes
© AP Photo / Amr NabilEgyptian workers assemble concrete forms at a building site as a giant Saudi flag hangs in the background at King Abdullah Square in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, March 14, 2021
© AP Photo / Amr Nabil
Saudi Arabia on Saturday executed 81 people said to have been convicted of terrorism and capital crimes, including the murder of innocent men, women and children, as well as the targeting of Saudi government employees, and the killing and maiming of law enforcement officers.
According to the state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA), those sentenced in the mass execution included individuals who were said to be loyal to “foreign terrorist organizations, such as ISIS*, Al-Qaeda*, and the Houthis”, and those who had traveled to regional conflict zones to join terrorist groups.
Other crimes said to have been convicted by those who were executed included targeting police officers and “vital economic sites”, planting landmines to target police vehicles, kidnapping, torture, rape, and smuggling weapons into the kingdom.
In 2021, Saudi authorities carried out 67 executions, an increase in the number of executions over the 27 in the year prior. In 2019, however, Riyadh executed 185 people in that year alone.
According to UK-based human rights group Amnesty International, executions in Saudi Arabia resumed directly after Riyadh completed hosting the Group 20 (G20) summit in December 2019, handing over host duties to Italy. After which, the kingdom executed nine people in the month of December 2020.
“The brief respite in repression coinciding with Saudi Arabia’s hosting of the G20 summit last November indicates that any illusion of reform was simply a PR drive,” said Lynn Maalouf, deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International in August 2021.
The human rights group and many others have criticized Saudi Arabia for what they suggest are “grossly unfair trials, marred by claims of torture during pre-trial detention leading to forced ‘confessions’ which the prosecution systematically failed to investigate.”
While Riyadh has asserted that capital punishment for those under the age of 18 has been abolished, Amnesty noted that in June 2021 a man was sentenced to death for crimes allegedly committed while the suspect was under the age of 18.
Amnesty has also criticized Saudi Arabia for persecuting its activists and dissidents, including 11 women in March 2019 who were charged with promoting women’s rights, calling for an end to Saudi Arabia’s male guardianship system, and contacting human rights organizations such as Amnesty. Some of those women include: Loujain al-Hathloul, Iman al-Nafjan, Aziza al-Yousef, Amal al-Harbi, Dr. Ruqayyah al-Mharib, Nouf Abdulziaz, Maya’a al-Zahrani, Shadan al-Anezi, Dr. Abir Namankni, and Dr. Hatoon al-Fassi.
21 April 2020, 21:46 GMT
In late March 2019, a Saudi court temporarily freed three of the women after international criticism. In 2021, Saudi activist Loujain al-Hathloul, who led a campaign to legalize driving for women, was released from jail after three years of imprisonment. That move has been seen as a gesture to improve the US-Saudi relationship after US President Joe Biden’s criticism of the country’s treatment of its activists and journalists.
Al-Hathloul’s release was conditional, as she was placed under a 5-year travel ban, among other restrictions. In late 2021, the activist sued three former USintelligence contractors for allegedly assisting to hack her cellphone using Pegasus spyware, which she believes led to her arrest.
“This is why I have chosen to stand up for our collective right to remain safe online and limit government-backed cyber abuses of power. I continue to realize my privilege to possibly act upon my beliefs,” al-Hathloul said.
“I hope this case inspires others to confront all sorts of cybercrimes while creating a safer space for all of us to grow, share, and learn from one another without the threat of power abuses.”
*Daesh (also known as ISIS/ISL/ IS) and Al-Qaeda are terrorist organisations outlawed in Russia and many other states.
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