WORLD NEWS

Saudi Arabia puts 81 to death in its largest mass execution

Mar 12, 2022, 2:19 PM | Updated: Jun 13, 2022, 3:38 pm
ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA - MARCH 02:  Bahrain Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa (R) attends a mee...
ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA - MARCH 02: Bahrain Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa (R) attends a meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon March 2, 2022 in Arlington, Virginia. Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa was in Washington for the second U.S.-Bahrain Strategic Dialogue. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Saudi Arabia on Saturday executed 81 people convicted of crimes ranging from killings to 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 for 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, though they came as much of the world’s attention remained focused on Russia’s war on Ukraine — and as the U.S. hopes to lower record-high gasoline prices as energy prices spike worldwide. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson reportedly plans a trip to Saudi Arabia next week over oil prices as well.

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 also said some of those executed were members of al-Qaida, the Islamic State group and also backers of Yemen’s Houthi rebels. A Saudi-led coalition has been battling the Iran-backed Houthis since 2015 in neighboring Yemen in an effort to restore the internationally recognized government to power.

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.

“The kingdom will continue to take a strict and unwavering stance against terrorism and extremist ideologies that threaten the stability of the entire world,” the report added. It did not say how the prisoners were executed, though death-row inmates typically are beheaded in Saudi Arabia.

An announcement by Saudi state television described those executed as having “followed the footsteps of Satan” in carrying out their crimes.

The executions drew immediate international criticism.

“The world should know by now that when Mohammed bin Salman promises reform, bloodshed is bound to follow,” said Soraya Bauwens, the deputy director of Reprieve, a London-based advocacy group.

Ali Adubusi, the director of the European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights, alleged that some of those executed had been tortured and faced trials “carried out in secret.”

“These executions are the opposite of justice,” he said.

The kingdom’s last mass execution came in January 2016, when the kingdom executed 47 people, including a prominent opposition Shiite cleric who had rallied demonstrations in the kingdom.

In 2019, the kingdom beheaded 37 Saudi citizens, most of them minority Shiites, in a mass execution across the country for alleged terrorism-related crimes. It also publicly nailed the severed body and head of a convicted extremist to a pole as a warning to others. Such crucifixions after execution, while rare, do occur in the kingdom.

Activists, including Ali al-Ahmed of the U.S.-based Institute for Gulf Affairs, and the group Democracy for the Arab World Now said they believe that over three dozen of those executed Saturday also were Shiites. The Saudi statement, however, did not identify the faiths of those killed.

Shiites, who live primarily in the kingdom’s oil-rich east, have long complained of being treated as second-class citizens. Executions of Shiites in the past have stirred regional unrest. Saudi Arabia meanwhile remains engaged in diplomatic talks with its Shiite regional rival Iran to try to ease yearslong tensions.

Sporadic protests erupted Saturday night in the island kingdom of Bahrain — which has a majority Shiite population but is ruled by a Sunni monarchy, a Saudi ally — over the mass execution.

The 1979 seizure of the Grand Mosque remains a crucial moment in the history of the oil-rich kingdom.

A band of ultraconservative Saudi Sunni militants took the Grand Mosque, home to the cube-shaped Kaaba that Muslims pray toward five times a day, demanding the Al Saud royal family abdicate. A two-week siege that followed ended with an official death toll of 229 killed. The kingdom’s rulers soon further embraced Wahhabism, an ultraconservative Islamic doctrine.

Since taking power, Crown Prince Mohammed under his father has increasingly liberalized life in the kingdom, opening movie theaters, allowing women to drive, and defanging the country’s once-feared religious police.

However, U.S. intelligence agencies believe the crown prince also ordered the slaying and dismemberment of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, while overseeing airstrikes in Yemen that killed hundreds of civilians.

In excerpts of an interview with The Atlantic magazine, the crown prince discussed the death penalty, saying a “high percentage” of executions had been halted through the payment of so-called “blood money” settlements to grieving families.

“Well about the death penalty, we got rid of all of it, except for one category, and this one is written in the Quran, and we cannot do anything about it, even if we wished to do something, because it is clear teaching in the Quran,” the prince said, according to a transcript later published by the Saudi-owned satellite news channel Al-Arabiya.

“If someone killed someone, another person, the family of that person has the right, after going to the court, to apply capital punishment, unless they forgive him. Or if someone threatens the life of many people, that means he has to be punished by the death penalty.”

He added: “Regardless if I like it or not, I don’t have the power to change it.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

World News

An Egyptian archeologist speaks at a recently discovered tomb dated to the Old Kingdom, 2700–2200...
MOHAMED WAGDY

Egypt unveils tombs and sarcophagus in new excavation

Egypt on Thursday unveiled dozens of new archaeological discoveries, including two ancient tombs, at a Pharaonic necropolis just outside of the capital Cairo.
4 days ago
A Yanomami youth carries a toddler on his shoulders at the Saude Indigenous House, a center respons...
Eleoneore Hughes and Edmar Barros, Associated Press

Why Brazil’s Yanomami are being decimated by disease, mining

Severe malnutrition and disease, particularly malaria, are decimating the Yanomami population in Brazil's Amazon rainforest, and on Jan. 20 the federal government declared a public health emergency.
4 days ago
Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, tours a neighborhood in Kharkiv ...
Hanna Arhirova, Associated Press

Russian attacks on Ukraine reported; tank training to start

Ukrainian officials say Russia has launched a new wave of missile and self-exploding drone attacks on the country.
5 days ago
woman leans off skyscraper for video content...
Larry D. Curtis

Sundance: ‘Fantastic Machine’ entertains while examining relationship between humans and camera

While the Utah's political leaders grapple with laws to combat the dangers of social media, Utah's Sundance Film Festival premiered "Fantastic Machine," turning the camera lens not only the camera but what it has meant to humans — spoiler: it has drastically changed us.
6 days ago
U.S. M1/A1 Abrams tanks...
TARA COPP and LOLITA BALDOR Associated Press

Why the US flipped on sending tanks to Ukraine

For months, U.S. officials balked at sending M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, insisting they were too complicated and too hard to maintain and repair.
6 days ago
This diagram made available by NASA shows the estimated trajectory of asteroid 2023 BU, in red, aff...
Marcia Dunn, AP Aerospace Writer

Asteroid coming exceedingly close to Earth, but will miss

An asteroid the size of a delivery truck will whip past Earth on Thursday night, one of the closest encounters ever recorded.
6 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t Let a Ransomware Attack Get You Down | Protect Your Workplace Today with Cyber Insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
Saudi Arabia puts 81 to death in its largest mass execution