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Saudi Arabia: 'callous' execution of Jordanian man for drugs offences condemned

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Hussein Abo al-Kheir was subjected to an unfair trial and allegedly tortured - UN recently called for his ‘immediate and unconditional’ release

Saudi authorities have already executed 11 people so far this month

‘The Saudi authorities have yet again revealed their callous disregard for human life’ - Heba Morayef

Amnesty International has condemned the execution of a Jordanian man - Hussein Abo al-Kheir - for alleged drugs offences. 

Al-Kheir, 57, a father-of-eight who had been on death row in the country since 2015 following an unfair trial in which he was convicted of a drug-related offence despite allegations that he was tortured in detention, was originally arrested in 2014 and later charged him with drug smuggling. In 2015, he was sentenced to death in following a grossly unfair trial. 

Al-Kheir’s execution contravenes a decision by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which last year found that he was being arbitrarily detained and called for his death sentence to be quashed as well as his “immediate and unconditional release”. 

His execution also violates international human rights law which prohibits the use of the death penalty for crimes that do not meet the threshold of “most serious crimes”, which are crimes that involve intentional killing.

Last November, the Saudi authorities resumed executions for drug-related offences following a pause in these executions between February 2020 and October 2022. Since the beginning of March, Saudi Arabia has already executed 11 people.

Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said:

“By executing Hussein Abo al-Kheir without even notifying his family, the Saudi authorities have yet again revealed their callous disregard for human life. 

“The Saudi authorities keep boasting that new legislative reforms bring human rights protections, yet their execution of Hussein following an unjust trial exposes their utter failure to follow through on these assurances.

“For years, Saudi prison officials held Hussein incommunicado, denied him legal representation and failed to investigate his complaint that he had been tortured into giving ‘confessions’ which were the basis for his conviction. Nobody should have to suffer such a torturous ordeal.

“The authorities must immediately return Hussein Abo al-Kheir’s body to his family so they can carry out a dignified burial.

“Saudi Arabia must immediately establish an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty in the country. 

“They must also remove the death penalty from all laws, starting with the Saudi Drugs and Narcotics Control Law which grants the judges the discretion to sentence people to death for drug smuggling or related crimes. 

“Saudi Arabia’s international allies must also make it clear that Saudi authorities cannot continue to execute with impunity, and they must speak out strongly in support of others on death row who may be at risk of execution.”

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