Saudi Arabia Has Resumed Executing Drug Offenders

17 have been beheaded in the space of 2 weeks
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 23, 2022 5:40 PM CST
Saudi Arabia Executes 17 Drug Offenders in 2 Weeks
Saudi Arabia has long been one of the world's most prolific executioners.   (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)

After a 21-month hiatus on executing people for drug offenses, Saudi Arabia appears to be trying to make up for lost time. The United Nations says the kingdom has executed 17 people for drug and contraband offenses over the past two weeks, including four Syrians, three Pakistanis, three Jordanians, and seven Saudis. Liz Throssel, a spokesperson for the UN human rights office, said the resumption is a "deeply regrettable step, all the more so coming just days after a wide majority of States in the UN General Assembly called for a moratorium on the death penalty worldwide." Saudi Arabia has executed a total of 130 people this year, including 81 on a single day in March, for offenses including murder and armed robbery.

Another Jordanian citizen was moved to a death row cell last Friday and relatives fear his execution is imminent. British lawmaker David Davis has urged Britain's foreign secretary and Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the UK to intervene and secure a reprieve for Hussein Abo al-Kheir, the Guardian reports. The 57-year-old was arrested at Saudi Arabia's border with Jordan in 2014 and accused of smuggling narcotics. He says he only confessed to drug offenses because he was tortured.

"Hussein was born into a poor family and, prior to his arrest, worked low-paid jobs to support his eight children: as a taxi driver, bus attendant and fruit and vegetable vendor," Davis wrote. "It remains absurd that this impoverished father of eight could ever have been a drug ‘kingpin’; he had neither the money nor connections to buy large quantities of drugs in Jordan to sell in Saudi Arabia.” Maya Foa, director of the rights group Reprieve, tells the Telegraph that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had pledged to end executions for drug offenses. She notes that the US State Department recently recognized the immunity of the crown prince in a lawsuit over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, sending the message that the "regime can kill with impunity." (More Saudi Arabia stories.)

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