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Saudi Arabia Carries Out 84th Execution This Year — for Drug Smuggling

Bill Weinberg

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Saudi Arabia on May 17 beheaded a Pakistani man convicted of drug trafficking, bringing to 84 the number of executions in the kingdom so far this year. The pan-Arab news agency Al Bawaba reports that the convict was beheaded in the Red Sea city of Jeddah, after being found guilty of attempting to traffic heroin into the kingdom in balloons he had swallowed. In 2014, Saudi Arabia carried out a total of 87 executions, and is about to break last year’s record not even halfway through 2015. Some of these have won much attention in the countries the convicts hailed from. On April 16, Saudi Arabia beheaded an Indonesian female domestic worker, just two days after executing another woman from the Southeast Asian country. In January, Saudi authorities publicly beheaded Laila Bint Abdul Muttalib Basim, a Muslim woman from Burma who was convicted of murder, in the holy city of Mecca. Footage of the execution showed Basim being dragged into a street and held down by four police officers as she repeatedly shouted, “I did not kill, I did not kill.” Basim then screamed as a sword-wielding executioner struck her neck. Second and third blows completed the beheading and authorities quickly removed her body from the street.

As it jacks up executions, Saudi Arabia is not surprisingly hyping a drug threat. The kingdom’s semi-official Al Arabiya reported April 26 that authorities are claiming there are 22,000 “drug addicts” in the Eastern Province—perhaps not surprisingly, the most restive in the country, where the unhappy Shi’ite minority resides. A “specialist” speaking at an emergency meeting of the Anti-Drug Directorate warned that youth are being “heavily targeted by drug dealers,” but failed to say what kind of drugs are at issue—apart from the broad and vague categories of “stimulant, inhibitory, and hallucinogenic.”

Amnesty International has criticized a “macabre spike” in use of the death penalty this year in Saudi Arabia, which the UK-based watchdog ranks among the top three executioners worldwide in 2014. Perversely, drug trafficking and “apostasy” are capital offenses along with rape and murder under the kingdom’s strict version of sharia law. One April execution was for smuggling amphetamine pills. (AFP, April 30)

Bill Weinberg is based in New York City.

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