Riyadh announces record number of single-day executions
More than 80 people convicted of various crimes, including terrorism, were executed on Saturday in Saudi Arabia – a record number of same-day executions in a country infamous for its high death penalty rates.
The Saudi Interior Ministry said in a statement that all the accused – 73 Saudis, seven Yemenis, and one Syrian national – had been tried in Sharia courts, with their trials being overseen by a total of 13 judges in three separate stages for each person. Announcing the rulings, the ministry stressed that the rights of all 81 defendants had been fully respected throughout the proceedings.
According to the ministry, the courts had found the individuals guilty of a range of “heinous crimes,” which included “pledging allegiance to foreign terrorist organizations,” such as Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) and Al-Qaeda, and also the Shiite Houthis, which Sunni Saudi Arabia classifies as a terrorist movement.
The long list of convictions includes “traveling to regional conflict zones to join terrorist organizations,” “targeting government personnel and vital economic sites,” killing police officers and “maiming their bodies,” planting land mines to target police vehicles, kidnapping, torture, rape, and smuggling arms and bombs into the country.
The number of executions conducted on Saturday was larger than 2021’s total of 69 and even exceeded that of January 1980, when 63 militants were put to death for the 1979 attack on the Grand Mosque at Mecca.
High execution rates, multiple reports of human rights abuses, and even the brutal murder of a dissident, Jamal Khashoggi, in 2018, have not prevented Saudi Arabia from remaining a trusted partner of many Western countries. Next week, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will reportedly visit Riyadh for talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman about cutting the UK’s dependence on Russian oil and replacing it with Saudi supplies amid Moscow’s ongoing offensive against Ukraine.