Saudi Arabia Executes 81 in One Day

Toll is a modern-day high for the kingdom
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 12, 2022 12:05 PM CST
Kingdom Sets Modern-Day High for Executions
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks in December during a summit in Riyadh.   (Bandar Aljaloud/Saudi Royal Palace via AP)

Saudi Arabia on Saturday executed 81 people convicted of crimes including killings and belonging to militant groups, the largest known mass execution carried out in the kingdom in its modern history. The number of executed surpassed even the toll of a January 1980 mass execution of the 63 militants convicted of seizing the Grand Mosque in Mecca in 1979, the worst-ever militant attack to target the kingdom and Islam's holiest site. It wasn't clear why the kingdom choose Saturday for the executions, the AP reports, though they came as much of the world's attention remained focused on Russia's war on Ukraine.

The number of death penalty cases being carried out in Saudi Arabia had dropped during the coronavirus pandemic, though the kingdom continued to behead convicts under King Salman and his assertive son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The state-run Saudi Press Agency announced Saturday's executions, saying they included those "convicted of various crimes, including the murdering of innocent men, women, and children." The kingdom said some of those executed were members of al-Qaida. Those executed included 73 Saudis, seven Yemenis, and one Syrian. The report did not say where the executions took place.

"The accused were provided with the right to an attorney and were guaranteed their full rights under Saudi law during the judicial process, which found them guilty of committing multiple heinous crimes that left a large number of civilians and law enforcement officers dead," the Saudi Press Agency said. It did not say how the prisoners were executed, though death-row inmates typically are beheaded in Saudi Arabia. In an interview with the Atlantic magazine, Crown Prince Mohammed said a "high percentage" of executions had been halted through the payment of so-called “blood money” settlements to grieving families.

(More Saudi Arabia stories.)

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