Saudi Arabia killed 37 of its citizens convicted of “terrorism” on Tuesday, a rare mass execution in the kingdom that occurred three years after dozens of people precipitated the breakdown of relations with Iran.
Tuesday’s executions took place in six regions: the capital Riyadh, the holy cities of Mecca and Madinah, the Sunni region of Al-Qassim (central), Assir (southern) and the eastern province where the Shia minority is concentrated, according to the Interior Ministry.
They bring the number of people killed in Saudi Arabia since the beginning of the year to more than 100, according to a count based on official reports.
Death penalty well established in the kingdom
According to Amnesty International, the kingdom, which follows a rigid version of Islam, is among the leading countries in the world that apply the death penalty.
In its 2018 World Report on the Death Penalty, the organisation states that behind China (which does not publish statistics), the countries with the highest number of executions are Iran (253), Saudi Arabia (149), Vietnam (85) and Iraq (52).
Some accused of “confessional sedition”
The 37 people executed on Tuesday in Saudi Arabia were all convicted of “adopting extremist terrorist thinking” and “training terrorist cells,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement issued by the official SPA agency.
Some have been accused of “confessional sedition”, a term generally used in Saudi Arabia for Shia militants.
The use of this term and the fact that the executions took place in Sunni and Shia areas seem to support the thesis that the torturers are Sunni Jihadists and Shia militants.
Beheadings and crucifixions
The Committee of Senior Ulema, bringing together the highest religious dignitaries in the kingdom, justified these executions, stressing in a statement that they were “in conformity with the Shariah”.
Executions generally take place by beheading in Saudi Arabia. The Interior Ministry said that one of Tuesday’s torturers was then crucified, a treatment reserved for the perpetrators of particularly serious crimes.