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Saudi Arabia: Upsurge in executions condemned

At least 17 people executed so far in 2007 - prisoner swallows nails in protest at death sentence

Amnesty International is extremely concerned at an alarming upsurge in executions in Saudi Arabia, with at least 17 people already executed in 2007.

A majority of those executed so far this year have been foreign nationals - four Sri Lankans (all beheaded on 19 February), three Pakistanis, two Iraqis and one Nigerian, while seven Saudi Arabians have also been put to death, including one woman.

Last year in total Saudi Arabia executed 39 prisoners (12 Saudi Arabian nationals, 26 foreign nationals, with a further person’s origins being unknown). Of these three were Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights.

Amnesty International, which is opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances, also has longstanding concerns about the unfairness of legal proceedings leading up to capital punishment in Saudi Arabia.

For example, the four Sri Lankan men executed earlier this week were all tried and sentenced without legal or consular representation. Neither the men’s families or the Sri Lankan authorities were informed of their executions beforehand and in one case the executed man - Sharmila Sangeeth Kumara - even believed that he had been sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment and was not at risk of death.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s most prolific users of the death penalty, but also one with a shockingly unfair capital trial system.

“King Abdullah should end Saudi Arabia’s continuing death penalty scandal by immediately commuting all death sentences in the kingdom.”

Saudi Arabia’s use of the death penalty, like its justice system in general, is shrouded in secrecy. Where Amnesty International is able to obtain information about particular cases, this is often extremely disturbing.

Last month, for example, a 31-year-old Saudi man - Hadi Sa’eed Al-Muteef - reportedly attempted suicide twice in eight days by swallowing nails in his solitary confinement cell on death row in Najran, in Saudi Arabia’s Western Province.

Hadi Sa’eed Al-Muteef had been on hunger strike protesting against being sentenced to death and having spent 13 years in prison. He was sentenced to death in 1997 following a vague charge relating to comments he had made that were deemed to be contrary to Islam. His trial proceedings failed to meet minimum international standards for fair trial.

Reports have since emerged indicating that the death sentence against Hadi Sa’eed Al-Muteef has been commuted to a prison term, and that he is being considered for a total pardon. Amnesty International believes that Hadi Sa’eed Al-Muteef is a prisoner of conscience, detained solely for exercising his right to peaceful freedom of expression, and is calling for his immediate and unconditional release.

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