Saudi Arabia beheads 100 people so far this year

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A Jordanian man convicted of drug smuggling has been executed by beheading in Saudi Arabia, raising the number of people executed in the kingdom so far this year to more than 100, officials and human rights activists say.

The man, who was convicted of smuggling “a large quantity” of banned amphetamine pills, was executed on Tuesday in the northwestern region of Tabuk. A statement from the interior ministry provided no specific details about the case.

Tuesday’s beheading raises the number of people executed in Saudi Arabia so far this year to 101, including 60 people who were executed in the past three months alone. A Saudi man was executed for murder on Monday and a Pakistani man was executed for heroin smuggling on Sunday.

“Since July 2017, the Saudi Arabian government has been on an execution spree with an average of five people put to death per week,” said Lynn Maalouf of Amnesty International. “If the Saudi authorities are truly intent on making reforms, they must immediately establish an official moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolishing the death penalty completely.”

Amnesty International noted that about 40 percent of executions so far this year were for non-lethal crimes such as drug offenses. Human rights group Reprieve said 17 young men are also facing imminent execution for protest-related offenses, adding that one of them was just 17 at the time of his arrest.

“Talk of reform and opening up to the world is a smokescreen to cover up these terrible human rights abuses that are being inflicted daily,” said Reprieve director Maya Foa. “Responsible leaders in Europe, the United States and around the world need to use their close ties to the Saudi Royal family to demand an end to this unacceptable brutality.”

At least 500 people have been executed in Saudi Arabia since the beginning of a surge in executions in 2014, angering human rights organizations because many of those killed were convicted of non-lethal crimes. Reprieve said more than a third of those killed were convicted of non-violent drug offenses.

The vast majority of executions are carried out by beheading, although some are killed by shooting.

The kingdom applies the death penalty for a large number of crimes, including drug offenses, apostasy, sorcery and witchcraft. Both witchcraft and sorcery are not defined as crimes but have been used to prosecute people for exercising their right to freedom of speech or religion, according to human rights organizations.

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