Saudi Arabia on Wednesday said it beheaded three men convicted of various crimes, bringing the total number of executions announced by the ultra-conservative kingdom so far this year to 101.
The Interior Ministry announced in a statement carried by the official SPA news agency it had executed two Indian nationals for murder and one Saudi national for rape.
It is the highest number of executions since 2000, when 113 people were put to death.
The ministry said Mandeem Fali and Mansheen Yedi were executed in the eastern city of Dammam for burning to death their Kuwaiti employer, Abdullah al-Ajmi, while Marzuk al-Mowlid was executed in the holy city of Mecca for raping a unnamed woman.
Executions are usually carried out in public in Saudi Arabia, which applies a strict form of sharia, or Islamic law. Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug-trafficking can all carry the death penalty.
The oil-rich kingdom has come under intense criticism from Western rights groups regarding its execution policy.
Amnesty International, in its 2007 report, said many defendants accused of crimes that carried the death penalty complained they were not represented by lawyers and were not informed of the progress of their trial.
Mufleh al-Kahtani, vice-president of the Saudi-based National Society for Human Rights, told Agence France-Presse earlier this year the increasing execution toll could be the result of wider changes in Saudi society.
“Social and economic changes are bringing with them new kinds of crimes, like armed robbery by organised gangs, more cases of manslaughter and crimes which are of such concern to the public that they could lead to execution, like rape,” he said.
Kahtani’s organisation is the first rights watchdog in the kingdom to be sanctioned by the government, in March 2004.
But it is possible for the condemned to have their lives spared. Local newspapers have carried stories of people on death row for murder who are pardoned by the family of the slain victim.
A Saudi woman walked free in May after spending eight years behind bars for killing a male compatriot, a case which prompted the intervention of Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz.
Such pardons are accompanied by the payment of diyya, or blood money, to the victim’s family. They can also be the result of “reconciliation” involving greater compensation than stipulated by law. — AFP