Saudi Arabia has executed its 70th prisoner this year, almost half the number from 2015, after a court convicted Alaa al-Zahrani of murder for throwing a rock to the head of Abdullah al-Sumairi.
“The death penalty is always cruel and unnecessary, but the Saudi justice system lacks evens the basics of a fair trial system and it’s truly frightening that its courts are sentencing so many people to death,” Amnesty International UK’s Head of Policy and Government Affairs Allan Hogarth told The Independent, adding:
With death sentences imposed after deeply unfair – and sometimes secret – proceedings, with defendants often denied a lawyer, and with courts regularly convicting people on the basis of “confessions” extracted under torture, Saudi Arabia is making a mockery of justice and dozens of people are paying with their lives.
It’s time that “strategic allies” like the UK started speaking out about this shocking state of affairs. For too long Downing Street has bent over backwards to avoid “offending” the Saudi royals. Saudi Arabia’s human rights record is utterly appalling and the UK government should say so.
The seventy people include 47 killed on January 2, after Saudi courts convicted them on terrorism charges, among these prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr. Shiites in Iran threw firebombs at the Saudi consulate and tore down its flag. Iranian dictator Ali Khamenei even tweeted a tribute to al-Nimr while Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossein Jaber Ansari said Saudi Arabia will pay a “high price” for the execution.
Saudi Arabia fired back, pointing out Iran’s human rights violations.
“The Iranian regime is the last regime in the world that could accuse others of supporting terrorism, considering that (Iran) is a state that sponsors terror, and is condemned by the United Nations and many countries,” said a Saudi foreign ministry spokesman in a statement. ”Iran’s regime has no shame as it rants on human rights matters, even after it executed hundreds of Iranians last year without a clear legal basis.”
Lebanon-based terrorist group Hezbollah blamed the execution on the United States.
“We hold the US and its allies… responsible for covering up the kingdom’s crimes against it[s] people and those of the region,” they stated.
French President Francois Hollande received backlash on March 6 when he awarded the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest honor, to Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef. Saudi outlets claimed he received the honor because of his “efforts in the fight against terrorism and extremism.” A Hollande aide said he received it as a “foreign individual, a common protocol practice.”