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

US Investors Eye IPO for China's Alibaba

E-commerce giant handled 80 percent of China's online business last year, logging more Internet transactions than US-based Amazon.com and eBay combined More

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

As cease-fire begins, Palestinians celebrate in streets; Israelis remain wary More

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

In treatment of a 12-year-old boy Chinese doctors used a 3-D printer and special software to create an exact replica of vertebra More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid