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

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

Studies point to possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More