The number of executions in Saudi Arabia was today blasted by campaigners as ‘truly frightening’ as the kingdom killed its 70th prisoner of the year.
Alaa al-Zahrani was found guilty of killing fellow Saudi Abdullah al-Sumairi with a rock to the head and was put to death in the Red Sea city of Jeddah yesterday, the interior ministry said.
The 70 executions so far this year include 47 death sentences for ‘terrorism’ carried out in a single day on January 2. Most people sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia are beheaded with a sword.
And the level of executions was criticized today by Allan Hogarth, Amnesty International UK’s head of policy and government affairs, who said the kingdom is ‘making a mockery of justice’.
Mr Hogarth told Independent reporter Ashley Cowburn: ‘The death penalty is always cruel and unnecessary, but the Saudi justice system lacks evens the basics of a fair trial system.
‘It’s truly frightening that its courts are sentencing so many people to death… Saudi Arabia is making a mockery of justice and dozens of people are paying with their lives.
‘It’s time that “strategic allies” like the UK started speaking out about this shocking state of affairs. For too long Downing Street has bent over backwards to avoid “offending” the Saudi royals.’
In 2015, Saudi Arabia executed 153 people, most of them for drug trafficking or murder, according to a count by Agence France-Presse.
Amnesty International says the number of executions in Saudi Arabia last year was the highest for two decades. However, the tally was far behind those of China and Iran.
The kingdom has a strict Islamic legal code under which murder, drug trafficking, armed robbery, rape and apostasy are all punishable by death.
On January 2, 47 people were executed for ‘terrorism’, including Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, a driving force behind protests that began in 2011 among the kingdom's minority Shiites.
Also today, France's foreign minister defended the awarding of the Legion d'Honneur, the country's highest honour, to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, after it sparked criticism.
President Francois Hollande awarded the honour to Nayef, who is also Saudi interior minister, during a visit on Friday for his ‘efforts in the fight against terrorism and extremism’.
While Nayef is respected by many in the West for his efforts to combat violent extremism, Saudi Arabia is still seen as one of the world's worst human rights violators.