Saudi Arabia: seven convicted robbers could be executed as early as next week

*One faces crucifixion after execution
*Campaigners making urgent appeals to King Abdullah

Amnesty International is calling on the Saudi Arabian authorities to cancel plans for the execution of seven men who may be executed as early as next week after being convicted of the armed robbery of jewellery shops in the country.

One of the men has been sentenced to be crucified after his execution, meaning his dead body is likely to be tied to a pole in a public square to act as a supposed deterrent to others.

The men, including two who may have been juveniles at the time of the alleged crime, were arrested in 2005 and 2006. They are said to have been severely beaten, denied food and water, deprived of sleep, forced to remain standing for 24 hours and then forced to sign “confessions” during their interrogation at the Criminal Investigation Department in Abha. They were detained for over three years in the General Prison in Abha before they went on trial and were convicted in 2009 after a short trial that used “confessions” allegedly extracted under torture as evidence against them. The men were not allowed legal representation and were denied the right to appeal the sentence.

The two men who are possible juvenile offenders are Ali bin Muhammad bin Hazam al-Shihri, who would have been aged around 16 at the time of the alleged offence, and Sa’id bin Nasser bin Muhammad al-Shahrani, who may also may also have been under 18. They were believed to have been held in the juvenile section of the Abha prison and later transferred to the adult area.

Originally set to be executed yesterday, their execution was postponed after King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud reportedly intervened to review their case. Amnesty is appealing to King Abdullah and other Saudi authorities to cancel plans for the men’s executions entirely and to allow a fresh trial without recourse to the death penalty ( www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE23/009/2013/en ).

Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Director Philip Luther said:
 
“The execution of these men must be immediately stopped. They should be granted a new trial and the torture allegations must be investigated.

“Saudi Arabia’s legal system is fundamentally flawed. The fact that someone can be executed after, it seems, being tortured to ‘confess’ to a crime and as a result of a trial where no defence was allowed is, simply, illegal.”

Saudi Arabia has one of the highest rates of execution in the world. At least 17 individuals have already been executed in 2013 - eight for drug-related offences and eight foreign nationals, including Rizana Nafeek, a Sri Lankan domestic worker, who was only 17 at the time of her alleged crime. At least 82 people were executed in 2011, as were a similar number in 2012 - more than triple the figure of at least 27 in 2010. Saudi Arabia applies the death penalty for a wide range of crimes, including drug offences, apostasy, sorcery and witchcraft.
 

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