RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Jan. 27 (UPI) — Saudi Arabia conducted its first public beheading under the rule of the newly installed King Salman bin Abdulaziz on Monday.
The executed man was a school teacher convicted of child sex abuse. According to the interior ministry, he raped 13 girls with the first attack in 2006 while working as a school teacher.
“Mousa bin Saeed Ali al-Zahrani lured several underage girls and kidnapped them. He also threatened them and their relatives and physically assaulted them in his home,” the Saudi Press Agency reported, citing the interior ministry. “He raped them, detained them, forced them to drink alcohol, and forced some to watch pornographic material.”
Zahrani maintained his innocence and posted a video to YouTube in April 2014 in which he denied the charges, calling the accusations “all unjust fabrication of the truth.” His family stood by him and argued he was subjected to a “sham trial.” His execution, the family added, was expedited following the death of King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz on Jan. 23.
The practice of public execution is one indicator of continuity in the new government. The Kingdom’s constitution states that rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are punishable by death.
“I think what’s very clear to us is that King Salman has sent a signal of continuity,” noted White House deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes ahead of President Barack Obama’s meeting with the new king. Speaking aboard Air Force One en route to Riyadh Tuesday, Rhodes said “we do believe that Saudi policy will remain quite similar to how it’s been under King Abdullah.”