August 8, 2022

81 men were executed for crimes ranging from killings to alleged ties with terrorist organisations, the kingdom’s state media has said

Saudi Arabia has put 81 men to death in a single day in what is the largest execution in the modern history of the kingdom.

Those who died were executed for crimes ranging from killings to alleged ties with terrorist organisations. They included seven Yemeni nationals and one Syrian.

“These individuals … were convicted of various crimes including murdering innocent men, women and children,” state-run news agency Saudi Press Agency [SPA] said on Saturday, citing a statement from the interior ministry.

“Crimes committed by these individuals also include pledging allegiance to foreign terrorist organisations, such as ISIS [ISIL], al-Qaeda and the Houthis,” the report added.

The SPA report also said that 37 Saudi nationals were amongst those put to death after being found guilty in a single case for attempting to assassinate security officers and targeting police stations and convoys.

SPA also state that the group had been tried by 13 judges and gone through a three-stage judicial process.

The number of deaths marks a sharp increase on the 67 executions reported in the kingdom in all of 2021. It also surpasses the 1980 mass execution of 63 militants who were convicted of seizing the Grand Mosque in Mecca the previous year. The last mass execution in the kingdom was carried out over six years ago, in January 2016, when 47 people were put to death.

The death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in 2018 has cast Saudi’s human rights record under the spotlight in recent years, with its implementation of the death penalty strongly criticised.

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“Just last week the Crown Prince (Mohammed bin Salman) told journalists he plans to modernise Saudi Arabia’s criminal justice system, only to order the largest mass execution in the country’s history,” a spokesperson for Britain-based campaign group Reprieve said in response to the mass execution.

“There are prisoners of conscience on Saudi death row, and others arrested as children or charged with non-violent crimes. We fear for every one of them following this brutal display of impunity.”

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