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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs