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Saudi Arabia executes 81 people in one day

Saudi interior ministry says crimes the men were accused of include terrorism, kidnapping, rape, and travelling to a regional conflict zone
A general view shows office buildings at al-Raidah Digital City of the Saudi capital Riyadh on February 28, 2022 (AFP)

Saudi Arabia executed at least 81 people in one day, including seven Yemenis and one Syrian, convicted of various crimes, including kidnapping and rape, state media reported on Saturday. 

The men included 37 Saudi nationals who were found guilty of attempting to assassinate security officers and targeting police stations and convoys, Saudi Press Agency said, citing a statement from the interior ministry.

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SPA did not confirm when the executions took place.

The crimes the individuals were convicted of include kidnapping, rape, membership of a terrorist organisation like the Islamic State group (IS) and travelling to a regional conflict zone. 

"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 SPA statement said. 

"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."

Saudi officials added that the trials were overseen by 13 judges over three separate stages for each individual. 

Human rights group Reprieve condemned the executions and said it feared for prisoners of conscience, including individuals arrested as children, on Saudi death row. 

"The world should know by now that when [Crown Prince] Mohammed bin Salman promises reform, bloodshed is bound to follow,"  said Reprieve deputy director Soraya Bauwens in a statement. 

"Just last week the crown prince told journalists he plans to modernise Saudi Arabia’s criminal justice system, only to order the largest mass execution in the country’s history.

"Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to visit Saudi Arabia soon, to beg for Saudi oil to replace Russian gas. We cannot show our revulsion for [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s atrocities by rewarding those of the crown prince. Johnson must speak up and condemn these killings."

Saudi Arabia has one of the highest execution rates in the world. This is not the first mass execution since Mohammed bin Salman became de facto leader of the kingdom. In 2019, 37 detainees, most of them from the country's Shia minority, were executed for alleged “terrorism”.

The last time Riyadh conducted a mass execution of this scale was in 1980 of 63 militants who seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca in 1979. 

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