Saudi Arabia put four people to death on Thursday, bringing to 100 the number of executions since the start of the year, according to an AFP tally based on official statements.
The latest executions reported by the official Saudi Press Agency come amid fresh condemnation of the kingdom’s human rights record after 81 people were put to death in a single day last week.
Of the 100 executions, three on Wednesday coincided with a visit by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was in Riyadh to lobby for a rise in oil output to help stabilize markets following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
On Saturday, Saudi Arabia’s execution of 81 people in one day – on various charges, including terrorism-related offenses – exceeded the total of 69 killed in the whole of 2021.
Human Rights Watch said it was ‘highly unlikely’ that the 81 men received fair trials, calling it a ‘brutal show of its autocratic rule’.
More than half of them, 41, belonged to the kingdom’s Shiite Muslim minority ‘who have long suffered systemic discrimination and violence by the government’, the New York-based rights group said.
Saudi Arabia said the men, who included seven Yemenis and one Syrian, belonged either to the Islamic State group, Al-Qaeda, Yemen’s Huthi rebels or ‘other terrorist organisations’.
These are the faces of 31 out of 81 men executed by Saudi Arabia in a single day at the weekend.
Asaad Makki Al Shub’bar Ali Asaad Shuber Ali, 37, was arrested while driving his wife to the school where she worked and accused of participating in demonstrations and chanting political slogans as well as being in possession of a picture of a human rights campaigner and join a terrorist organization
Half of those put to death were from the country’s Shia minority region which has seen anti-government demonstrations since the Arab Spring swept through the region in 2011.
Saturday’s mass execution was said by the Riyadh authorities to involve foreign terrorists and people convicted of ‘murdering innocent men, women and children’.
Others killed included prisoners accused of holding ‘deviant beliefs’.
These 31 men were put to death as the result of a bloody clampdown on Shi’ite Muslims from the eastern Qatif region which has historically been a flashpoint between locals and the Sunni-dominated government.
Trouble flared in 2017 when a move by police to evict residents from Awamiyah, home to around 30,000 people, turned violent leaving 25 dead.
Asaad Makki Al Shub’bar Ali, 37, was arrested while driving his wife to the school where she worked and accused of participating in demonstrations and chanting political slogans as well as being in possession of a picture of a human rights campaigner and joining a terrorist organisation.
Brothers Hassan Mohammed Al-Faraj and Jaafar Muhammad Al-Faraj were both sentenced to death over the weekend
According to the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights (ESOHR), his torture included ‘beatings with hands, legs, whips, wire and other instruments throughout his body and face with a focus on the lower back since the investigator knew that he had a back vertebrae injury, as well as beatings in sensitive areas of his body’.
Another executed was Mohammed al-Shakhouri, 27, who was tortured and kept in solitary confinement. Relatives had no contact with him for six months, according to ESOHR.
Legal proceedings began against him in 2019, initially without representation and using ‘confessions extracted under torture’.
He was sentenced to death last year for charges such as seeking to destabilize the social fabric.
Another killed was Aqil Hassan al-Faraj, 30, who was beaten and held in solitary confinement before being charged with helping form a terrorist cell and trading arms.
The Saudi authorities have not revealed whether the executed men were killed in the traditional way, by beheading, or by firing squad.
Syed Mohammed Alawi Al-Shakhouri, 27, was tortured and kept in solitary confinement. Relatives had no contact with him for six months, according to ESOHR
But relatives say their bodies are not being returned to their families for fear of the funerals becoming a focus for renewed agitation.
Ali Adubusi, Director of ESOHR, said: ‘We have details on some of the cases and, according to official documents, not a drop of blood is found in the charges of many of these men.
‘These executions are the opposite of justice. Some of these men were tortured, most trials were carried out in secret.
‘This horrific massacre took place days after Mohammed bin Salman had declared that executions would be limited. It is the third such mass killing in the seven year reign of King Salamn and his son of him’.
Soraya Bauwens, Deputy Director of campaign charity, Reprieve, said: ‘There are prisoners of conscience on Saudi death row, and others arrested as children or charged with non-violent crimes. We fear for every one of them following this brutal display of impunity’.
On Monday Downing Street said the government would be ‘raising’ Saudi Arabia’s mass execution of 81 men with the regime.
The announcement came as Boris Johnson prepared to visit the desert kingdom to try and persuade it to increase oil production to make up for a shortfall in lost Russian fuel imports as a result of sanctions following the invasion of Ukraine.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.