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Saudi Arabia executes 37 people convicted of terrorist charges




On Tuesday, April 23, 2019, Saudi Arabia's Interior Ministry said that 37 Saudi citizens have been beheaded in a mass run across various regions of the country. Saudi King Salman ratified the executions of terror-related crimes by royal decree. (Cliff Owen / AP)

On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia said it had executed 37 people convicted of terrorist offenses, where the number of executions occurred in the first four months of the year to 105, according to the Saudi Ministry and Reprieve, a human rights group that traces the use of the death penalty in the kingdom.

It was the largest mass run in Saudi Arabia since early 2016 when 47 people were killed, also on terrorist-related charges. The vast majority of those executed on Tuesday were members of Saudi Arabia's Shiite Muslim minority, according to Shiite activists.

The deaths included at least three people who were minors at the time of their alleged crimes and declared the prosecution's charges under torture, according to Reprieve, who said it provided assistance to five of the people executed.

Saudi Arabia generally holds prisoners sentenced to death in ceremonies by fines using a sword – a punishment in accordance with the kingdom's strict interpretation of Islamic law.

The Saudi Interior Ministry said the people who were executed were convicted of all Saudi nationals for allegations involving the adoption of extremist ideology, the formation of terror cells, and attacks on headquarters security. The executions came just a few days after the Saudi authorities said members of the Islamic state, a Sunni militant group, had attacked a headquarters in the capital north of Riyadh, the capital

Overhead herders also emerged in a moment with spiking tensions between Saudi -Arabia and its main rival, the Shiite-led government of Iran. The Saudi leadership, led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has attempted to counter Iran's influence in the Middle East by opposing militant groups allied with Tehran and breaking down Shiite dissidents both at home and in neighboring countries such as Bahrain.

Saudi Arabia's prosecution of Shiites who have complained of discrimination in the kingdom has exacerbated rivalry. In 2016, when the Saudi authorities carried out Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, an eerie Shiite president, Iranian leaders condemned the performance and demonstrators in Tehran the Saudi embassy. Almost immediately, Saudi Arabia broke diplomatic relations with Tehran.

Saudi Arabia is one of the countries that most often use the death penalty, according to human rights groups. The sentences are often given to people convicted of drug-related crimes. The use of the death penalty in terrorist cases is more unusual and has been criticized by human rights defenders because trials are conducted by secret, specialized courts.

Maya Foa, director of Reprieve, said the executions on Tuesday after beliefs in the specialized terrorist court were a "scary show of impunity from the Saudi government" and a "dizzying violation of international law."

Mujtabaa al-Sweikat, one of the people executed on Tuesday, was arrested at an airport in Saudi Arabia's eastern province in December 2012, preparing to leave the country for a college visit to Western Michigan University , the group said. He was 17 at that time.

He was accused of obeying the Saudi monarch, attacking security forces and other offenses, according to Reprieve. The group said he was tortured in prison, denied access to a lawyer during interrogation and forced to sign a prosecution's award award, including taking part in protests.