News / Middle East

Saudi Arabia Executes Seven for Armed Robbery

Reuters
— Saudi Arabia on Wednesday executed seven men for armed robbery, the Interior Ministry said, despite an appeal for clemency by United Nations human rights investigators.

The seven were sentenced to death in 2009 for crimes committed in 2005 and 2006 when human rights groups said some were younger than 18.

The conservative Islamic kingdom, which applies a strict interpretation of sharia, has faced criticism by Western countries for its frequent use of capital punishment and trials that human rights groups say do not meet international standards.

Human Rights Watch's deputy director for the region, Eric Goldstein, condemned the executions on Wednesday saying they were inhumane.

Asked whether Britain's Prince Charles should raise human rights when he visits the kingdom on Friday, he said: "We think everyone, every government, every third party that visits Saudi Arabia should make human rights a central part of the discussions with that country."

The men, from Asir Province in the south of Saudi Arabia, had been due to die last week but were granted a stay of execution while authorities reviewed their case.
       
They were convicted of theft, including armed robbery, the Interior Ministry said. Human rights group Amnesty International and the men's families have said the robberies included one at a jewellery store.
       
Relatives of the men told Reuters last week they had been forced to confess to unsolved crimes in the district, in addition to the armed robbery they had carried out.
       
Amnesty said the men later retracted a confession which they said had been obtained through torture, without giving details of the confession. Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter, denies it uses torture.
       
Human rights activists in Saudi Arabia, Washington's closest Gulf ally, said the seven were executed by firing squad.

"The charges against all seven persons were allegedly fabricated and all seven were convicted following unfair trials," the U.N. experts said in a statement on Tuesday.

In January, King Abdullah said he had full confidence in the kingdom's justice system after the United Nations voiced concern over the trial of a Sri Lankan woman who had been executed.

The Interior Ministry named the seven men as Sarhan al-Mushaikh, Saeed al-Amri, Ali al-Shehri, Nasser al-Qahtani, Saeed al-Shahrani, Abdulaziz al-Amri and Ali al-Qahtani and said they were part of a gang responsible for crimes including armed robbery and theft.

"By the grace of God, the security authorities were able to apprehend the perpetrators" whose sentence to death was "a punishment" and "to deter others," the ministry said.
        
The relatives

"I've lost faith in the judiciary and the political establishment," said a family friend who asked not to be identified.

A group of relatives and friends of the men went to the royal court last week to seek a retrial or pardon from the king, arguing they had been denied proper access to legal representation and their crime did not warrant execution.

The men were granted a stay of execution but were executed eight days later. They were shot at 6 a.m. (0300 GMT) on Wednesday in Abha, the capital of Asir, one of the least developed parts of the country.

A prominent Saudi lawyer and supporter of efforts spearheaded by King Abdullah to reform the judiciary by standardising sentencing and retraining sharia judges, defended the executions.

"We are in a society where we used to leave our shops open and go to pray... because we were sure nobody would come and steal our stuff. So to have an organised criminal group come and do such a thing, we don't like it," he said.

The lawyer said death sentences were reviewed by an appeal court, the high court and the king's office before the sentence was implemented.

"They don't just do the paperwork. No, they review the judgment," he said.

You May Like

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Agei
X
Elizabeth Lee
July 20, 2014 2:36 AM
Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.
Video

Video Diplomatic Crisis Grows Over MH17 Plane Crash

The Malaysia Airlines crash in eastern Ukraine is drawing reaction from leaders around the world. With suspicions growing that a surface-to-air missile shot down the aircraft, there are increasing tensions in the international community over who is to blame. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Undocumented Immigrants Face Perilous Journey to US, No Guarantees

Every day, hundreds of undocumented immigrants from Central America attempt the arduous journey through Mexico and turn themselves over to U.S. border patrol -- with the hope that they will not be turned away. But the dangers they face along the way are many, and as Ramon Taylor reports from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, their fate rests on more than just the reception they get at the US border.
Video

Video Scientists Create Blackest Material Ever

Of all the black things in the universe only the infamous "black holes" are so black that not even a tiny amount of light can bounce back. But scientists have managed to create material almost as black, and it has enormous potential use. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Fog Collector Transforming Maasai Water Harvesting in Kenya

The Maasai people of Kenya are known for their cattle-herding, nomadic lifestyle. But it's an existence that depends on access to adequate water for their herds and flocks. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA, on a "fog collector."

AppleAndroid