Amnesty calls on Saudi to stop executions

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Rights group Amnesty International on Friday called on Saudi Arabia to stop applying the death penalty, saying there had been a significant rise in the number of executions there in the past six weeks.

The London-based group said in a statement that at least 27 people have been executed in Saudi Arabia in 2011, "the same as the total number of people executed in the whole of 2010. Fifteen people were executed in May alone."

Amnesty's Philip Luther, deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said: "The Saudi Arabian authorities must halt this disturbing pattern, which puts the country at odds with the worldwide trend against the death penalty.

"Amnesty International is aware of over 100 prisoners, many of whom are foreign nationals, currently on death row. The Saudi authorities must immediately stop executions and commute all death sentences, with a view to abolishing the death penalty completely," he added.

On Wednesday, a man convicted of murder was beheaded in the capital Riyadh, raising to 24 the number of people executed in the kingdom this year, according to an AFP count based on official Saudi reports.

In 2010, AFP figures show 27 executions reported in the oil-rich kingdom, down from 67 in 2009 and 102 in 2008.

Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under the conservative Muslim kingdom's strict interpretation of Islamic sharia law.

© 2011 AFP

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