Black Friday Saudi-style: Riyadh to behead more than 50 people

© Andrew Biraj
Saudi Arabia is planning to execute more than 50 people, found guilty of terrorism, in a single day. The move was immediately slammed by Amnesty International, which said the Saudis are “using the guise of counter-terrorism to settle political scores.”

READ MORE: Saudi Arabia’s 175 ‘mass judicial executions’ in 1 yr condemned by Amnesty

The information about executions was recently released in Saudi media, which said that up to 55 ‘Al-Qaeda terrorists’ and 'criminals' from the town of Awamiyya will be executed in the next few days. However, it hasn’t been specified when and how exactly the executions will take place. Awamiya, in Eastern Province where the authorities suppressed protests in 2011, has a predominantly Shiite population. According to sources, the executions may be carried out after Friday prayers.

Reuters cited the Saudi Okaz newspaper as saying these 55 people are accused of sedition, attacks on security officials, and attempts to overthrow the government and carry out attacks by using explosives and surface-to-air missiles. According to Okaz, those on death row have killed more than 100 civilians and 71 security personnel.

One of the prisoners is accused of attempting to buy nuclear material in Yemen worth $1.5 million for use inside Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi plan has been slammed by Amnesty, which said that executing dozens of people “in a single day would mark a dizzying descent to yet another outrageous low for Saudi Arabia.”

“Saudi Arabia’s macabre spike in executions this year, coupled with the secretive and arbitrary nature of court decisions and executions in the kingdom, leave us no option but to take these latest warning signs very seriously,” said James Lynch, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.

Earlier the mothers of five teenagers who are among those on death row implored King Salman to show clemency.

“The sentences handed down to our children are unique in the history of Saudi justice,” the statement from the mothers said.

“They were based on confessions extracted under torture, trials that barred them from accessing defense counsel, and judges that displayed bias towards the prosecution.”

This year has seen a sharp increase in the number of executions in the Kingdom. About 150 people have already been put to death. This is already a 26-percent increase on 2014.

The number of executions in 2015 is catching up with the Kingdom’s all-time annual record of 192, which was documented by Amnesty International in 1995. The watchdog has been scathing of the Kingdom’s human rights record, saying they “fall far short” of global norms.