Saudi Arabia: Call for crucifixion execution to be halted

Amnesty International has issued an urgent appeal to the Saudi Arabian authorities calling for the intended execution and crucifixion of a 22-year-old man to be halted.

Saudi Arabia's Court of Cassation recently confirmed a sentence of beheading following by crucifixion against Muhammad Basheer al-Ramaly. Crucifixions - which are rare in Saudi Arabia - take place after beheading, with the body and the separated head placed on a pole in a public square to act as a supposed deterrent.

Amnesty International UK Director Tim Hancock said:

“Crucifixion plumbs the depths when it comes to grisly punishment and we’re calling on King 'Abdullah to halt this execution, which he has the power to do.

“Rather than approving countless executions, King 'Abdullah should declare a moratorium on all existing death sentences and order urgent reforms to the Saudi justice system. We must not continue to see cases where people face execution after trials where they were denied even a lawyer.”

Under Saudi procedures Muhammad Basheer al-Ramaly’s sentence will be passed to the country’s Supreme Judicial Council, led by the King. The Council can approve death sentences or send them back to the Court of Cassation for review. Al-Ramaly could be executed at any time if the Council approves his sentence. According to a Saudi newspaper report, the authorities in the northern city of Hail - where Muhammad Basheer al-Ramaly is held - have already begun to prepare for his execution.

Al-Ramaly was convicted in Hail of the kidnapping and rape of four people in February 2009. In Saudi Arabia capital trials are extremely secretive and there is little information about his trial. However it is known that Al-Ramaly did not have access to a lawyer during his trial, and there are also reports that he may be suffering from a psychological disorder. If so, sentencing him to death would be in defiance of a UN Commission on Human Rights Resolution urging countries “not to impose the death penalty on a person suffering from any form of mental disorder.”

So far this year at least 61 people are known to have been executed in Saudi Arabia - though the authorities do not release official statistics and the true number is likely to be higher. At least 102 people were executed in 2008, the third highest number of any country in the world. Amnesty has recorded over 1,700 executions in the Kingdom since 1985.

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