Saudi beheaded for murder as Amnesty urges halt to executions

AFP
The General Court in the Saudi capital Riyadh on May 15, 2005
The General Court in the Saudi capital Riyadh on May 15, 2005 (AFP Photo/)

Riyadh (AFP) - A Saudi national convicted of murder was decapitated by the sword in the southwest of the Gulf kingdom on Tuesday, the interior ministry said.

Wail al-Shehri, convicted of shooting dead Meshaal Assiri during an argument, was executed on Tuesday in Abha, capital of Assir province, the ministry said in a statement carried by the official SPA news agency.

The beheading by sword raises to 33 the number of executions announced in Saudi Arabia so far this year, according to an AFP tally.

Rights watchdog Amnesty International on Monday denounced in a statement what it called a "disturbing surge" in the use of the death penalty in Saudi Arabia.

"The Saudi Arabian authorities must halt all executions," it said after two sets of brothers were beheaded on Monday after being convicted of drug smuggling.

Amnesty said the convictions of the four men came "reportedly on the basis of forced confessions extracted through torture".

The rights group said Monday's beheadings "bring the number of state killings in Saudi Arabia in the past two weeks to 17 -- a rate of more than one execution per day".

"The recent increase in executions in Saudi Arabia is a deeply disturbing deterioration. The authorities must act immediately to halt this cruel practice," Amnesty's Said Boumedouha said.

Last year, there were 78 executions in Saudi Arabia and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights denounced a "sharp increase in the use of capital punishment".

Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under the kingdom's strict version of Islamic sharia law.