Two reports in local Saudi Arabian media reveal that a mass execution is planned to take place in that nation in a few days. The prisoners are not named, but one report states that more than 50 individuals are to be executed and that all of them are from the eastern part of the country, and another explains that all of the prisoners have been charged with terrorism.
Both of these statements describe Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, the young man who was arrested when he was a teen; his uncle, Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr; and Ali Saed Al-rebeh, Mohammed Faisal al-shyookh, Dawood al-Marhoon, Abed allahhassan al-Zaher, Ali Mohammad al-Nimr, and Mohammad Suwaymil. Each was charged with terrorism and they all are from the east.
Ali Adubisi, the Director of the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights in Berlin (ESOHR) published a brief article earlier today in which he explained his findings: “These 52 individuals are all to be executed based on terrorism-related charges. The group comprises a mix of individuals, who will all be executed across different regions of the kingdom in a single day. We do not have full details of all the 52 individuals.” He added that two of the articles he had seen were quickly taken down, but one remains standing. (If those who can read Arabic, here is the link: Okaz. ESOHR reports the number as 52; Reprieve, the human rights watchdog group, reports 55.
Adubisi has been in regular contact with the families of the prisoners, so he has one other detail that outside news sources do not have: “All the activists have recently been given an unexplained medical examination.” He adds: “Medical examinations are common in the lead up to an execution.”
The Saudi Arabian government considers its Eastern region to be a hotbed of insurgency. This stems from sectarian differences between the people who live there and the rest of the country. Shiekh al-Nimr and the six underage defendants are all from that region and are considered terrorists because they were considered possible activists. Silencing activists is the Saudi Arabian government’s way of preventing future change.
Almost every prisoner sentenced to die in Saudi Arabia is beheaded, a method that I have seen argued online (chillingly) as being more humane than the American method of lethal injection (which I am also vehemently against). There are videos online, several videos, that are purported to show a genuine judicial beheading in Saudi Arabia. I have not seen if these have been verified as real or if they even could be real. To me, every method of judicially administered death is chilling. Some prisoners in Saudi Arabia are executed by firing squad. Others are stoned. Most are beheaded. All are dispatched in public; almost all punishments in Saudi Arabia, corporal and capital, are delivered in public, as if they are an entertainment.
Only the nations of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran, and Qatar have beheading as a legal means of execution; Saudi Arabia is the only nation that actually employs the method.
As Ali Adubisi reported, he does not know the stories of the other 45 individuals. He adds, “Such a mass execution is an uncommon move by the Saudi authorities and signals a new approach to the implementation of the death penalty.” He also reports that conditions for each of the seven prisoners has deteriorated in the last two weeks: the recent torrential rains in Saudi Arabia flooded the prisons, the condemned men’s cells flooded also, but none of them were moved to dry cells or even given towels to dry themselves.
I recently wrote about a death-row prisoner in Saudi Arabia, Hussein Abu al-Khair. I reported last week:
Hussein Abu al-Khair was arrested in 2014 after he was pulled over by police. They charged him with smuggling drugs across the border between Jordan and Saudi Arabia. According to his sister, Zeinab Abdle, he was told by the police that they were arresting him for drug smuggling even though they did not inspect the vehicle. Why look for something you are not going to find when officially you have found it already?
Zeinab described what followed in a letter to me: “He was detained and was tortured for 12 days by being hung up-side down by the ankles with the help of thick chains. He was beaten with sticks, hands and other methods. He has been spat on, insulted and shamed through insults. His body has been hung with his legs and hands stretched out as he was being hurt. When his body and spirit were broken, he was forced to sign a false declaration saying that he admitted to smuggling drugs into Saudi Arabia. From this moment on, he was thrown into the Tabook jail awaiting his trial.”
He was convicted of drug smuggling and sentenced to death.
I asked Zeinab earlier today if she or her sister have been able to speak with Hussein Abu al-Khair in recent days. She told me that her sister has spoken with him. It seems likely, but we do not know this definitively, that he is not among the 52 that ESOHR reported on today. He was not charged with terrorism, and he is not originally from the eastern portion of Saudi Arabia; he is Jordanian.
Saudi Arabia is in a bloodthirsty moment in its history, something that usually comes from desperation.
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