Saudi executes two men amid death penalty spike  




Saudi Arabia on Saturday put to death two men, including one convicted of attempting to blow up an oil facility, bringing to six the number of executions this year, state media reported.


The second man was convicted of forcibly committing “an obscene act of sodomy” on minors, according to the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA).


The executions, both In the western Mecca region, came three days after authorities in the southwestern Baha region put to death four men accused of kidnapping and killing another man.


They are the first cases of capital punishment this year in the kingdom, which executed 147 people last year — more than double the 2021 figure of 69, according to AFP tallies.


Last year’s number included 81 people put to death for terrorism-related offences on a single day in March 2022, an event that spurred an international outcry.


The executions on Saturday demonstrate the government’s “keenness to establish security and achieve justice” and should serve as a warning to other would-be offenders, SPA said, citing the interior ministry.


The man who tried to attack the oil facility also shot and killed a member of the security forces and fired on others, SPA said, without stating when the attack took place.


Saudi Arabia is the world’s biggest crude oil exporter.


The SPA reports did not make clear how the recent executions were meted out, though the wealthy Gulf kingdom is known for beheadings.


More than 1,000 death sentences have been carried out since King Salman assumed power in 2015, according to a report published earlier this year by Reprieve and the European-Saudi Organisation for Human Rights (ESOHR).


The rate has soared from an average of 70.8 executions a year from 2010 to 2014, to 129.5 a year since 2015, the report said.


Last year saw the resumption of executions for drug crimes, ending a moratorium that lasted almost three years.


Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the king’s son and Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, said in an interview with The Atlantic magazine that the kingdom had “got rid of” the death penalty except for cases of murder or when someone “threatens the lives of many people”, according to a transcript published by state media in March 2022.


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