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Saudi Arabia executes citizen during Ramadan for first time in 14 years

Execution took place on 30 March, bringing total number of death sentences to 17 since January
A Muslim woman reads the Quran at the Grand Mosque in Mecca during the month of Ramadan, 2 April 2022 (AFP)

Saudi Arabia has carried out an execution during the holy month of Ramadan for the first time in 14 years, according to the European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights (ESOHR).

ESOHR, an NGO with offices in London and Berlin, said the kingdom had not witnessed a death sentence during the religious month since 2009.

The group reported that the execution took place on 30 March, bringing the number of total death sentences implemented in Saudi Arabia this year to 17.

"The execution of the death penalty during the holy month is in addition to the series of violations that have emerged and intensified during King Salman's and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's reign," ESOHR said in a statement.

The group said that detainees, including minors, remain at risk in Saudi prisons as authorities attempt to speed up the execution of death sentences.

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"It shows Saudi Arabia's insistence on no social, cultural or humanitarian restrictions. It also shows its lack of commitment to promises to restrict and limit executions."

Among the 17 people executed this year by Saudi authorities, 12 were Saudi nationals, one a Pakistani citizen,  as well as one Indian and a Jordanian.

Hussein Abo al-Kheir, a Jordanian citizen, was executed on 12 March despite intervention from the UN and two British foreign ministers.

Abo al-Kheir, a father of eight who worked as a taxi driver, was reportedly tortured for 12 days and made to sign a false confession of drug charges.

Saudi Arabia also executed Haider al-Tahifa, a Saudi national, on charges of seizing weapons and belonging to a banned group.

Dozens at risk

ESOHR reported at least 64 people are at risk of being executed after the Specialised Court of Appeal ratified dozens of death sentences in March, including against minors.

"While the families believed that the execution of the rulings would be paused during Ramadan, the latest ruling raises real concerns, especially since Saudi Arabia does not notify them in advance," ESOHR said.

"Implementing the [death] sentence during Ramadan is an indication of bloodshed escalation. It also reveals that Salman and his son [MBS] broke the covenant of all restrictions, values, and promises they made," it added.

In March 2022, Saudi Arabia executed at least 81 people in one day, including seven Yemenis and one Syrian, convicted of various crimes, including kidnapping and rape.

Human rights groups have criticised Saudi Arabia's judicial process as being based on forced confessions and the absence of legal norms protecting the rights of the accused.

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