(Photo credit: alquds.co)
In one of the largest mass executions in Saudi Arabia since 1980, a total of 81 people were killed on charges of alleged terrorism-related activities.
The Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported that the executions took place on 12 March, and included seven Yemenis and one Syrian.
Forty of those executed are reported to have come from Qatif, a region populated by the kingdom’s Shia minority.
The Saudi government claims the executions were carried out on convicts who held “deviant beliefs, pledging allegiance to foreign organizations.”
According to former British MI6 agent Alastair Crooke, the leadership of Saudi Arabia ascribes to and promotes the ideology of Wahhabism, considered a distortion of Islam by most Muslims.
What makes Wahhabism dangerous is that anyone who does not subscribe to it is guilty of holding deviant beliefs and can be killed.
In the view of the Saudi authorities, the term ‘deviant beliefs’ constitutes anything that does not conform to the Wahhabi doctrine.
The Yemenis who were executed faced charges of allegedly supporting the Yemeni resistance group Ansarallah.
One of the executed, Abdallah al Zaher, was arrested at the age of 13.
International NGOs such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) have criticized the Saudi judicial system for its injustice and its lack of due process.
“People accused of crimes, including children, commonly face systematic violations of due process and fair trial rights, including arbitrary arrest,” says an HRW report from March 2022.
HRW notes that many of the confessions of alleged ‘crimes’ committed by detainees were obtained through torture, often as the sole basis for conviction.
Despite judicial reforms passed in February 2021, HRW remains unconvinced about the Saudi judicial system, stating: “Saudi and international human rights groups have raised concerns that many arbitrary charges will simply be codified as wide-ranging, catch-all offenses that criminalize the rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly, among other rights.”
Saudi Arabia is known for targeting non-violent dissidents, as in the case of executed Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr.