Execution for sorcery? This is no April Fool's joke

Best April Fool of the day? The Guardian’s page three on Labour’s “Gordon gets violent” election campaign? Not bad. The Times’ page 19 ad for anti-sweat “Miracle Shirts” (a “real” spoof from Gillette”)? Yes, quite good (like the eye patch in some versions).

Actually, my vote goes for the London Olympics tower as a “surely this as an early April Fool's joke” candidate (I think an architect on the Today programme was spot-on with his “Like the Eiffel Tower after a nuclear attack” description).

But, what about that story about a man facing execution for “sorcery” in Saudi Arabia? Surely a spoof news story, right? No, it’s deadly real.

As readers of this blog will already know, this is the case of the Lebanese TV presenter 'Ali Hussain Sibat facing beheading for making predictions about the future on his show. It may sound ludicrous, but the judges in his case recently said that killing him would be a timely deterrent as Saudi Arabia was being inundated by “foreign magicians”.

Saudi Arabia has done it before. In 2007 an Egyptian chemist was put to death for supposed sorcery. Amnesty’s new figures from earlier this week show that in 2009 the country executed at least 69 people (the fourth highest number of any country in the world). As you can see in previous Amnesty reports, capital trials in Saudi Arabia are sub-standard to the point of farce (ie “confessions” extracted using trickery/coercion used to convict defendants, no lawyers or translators, secret courts).

News reports are now indicating that 'Ali Hussain Sibat’s execution could happen as early as tomorrow. Amnesty has called on the Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri  to step in to try to avert this travesty of justice.

Meanwhile, please support Amnesty’s appeal to the Saudi authorities.

As I say, this is not a spoof. I wish it was.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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