JNN 24 April 2019 Riyadh : Saudi Arabia executed 37 people on Tuesday after they had been sentenced to death for terrorism-related crimes, Out of which 33 belonged to the Shia Minority , who were booked and executed on charges of Protesting against the apartheid regime .
At least 33 of those executed belonged to the Sunni Muslim kingdom’s Shiite minority, and human rights organizations expressed doubts about the fairness of their trials.
The executions were announced in a statement on the state-run news agency, which said the men had been put to death for “their adoption of extremist, terrorist ideology and forming terrorist cells to corrupt and disturb security, spread chaos and cause sectarian discord.”
Some men had been involved in bomb attacks on security headquarters that had killed officers, the agency said.
The statement also accused them of “cooperating with hostile parties in a way that damaged the high interests of the homeland.”
It listed the 37 men by name but provided little information about what specific crimes had been committed by whom or when.
Adam Coogle, who monitors Saudi Arabia for Human Rights Watch, said that at least 33 of those executed were Saudi Shiites and that many had been involved in cases that raised serious rights concerns.
Eleven of the executed men had been arrested starting in 2013 and charged with spying for Iran. They had been detained for two or more years before their trial began, and some of their lawyers boycotted the proceedings after being denied access to their clients and the case files.
Fourteen others executed on Tuesday had been arrested in connection with the sometimes violent protests against the Saudi authorities around 2012. Their trial began in 2015.
In both cases, some of the men were convicted based on confessions that they later withdrew in court because, they said, they had been tortured, according to Mr. Coogle.
“As a matter of principle, none of these people had lawyers during investigation, so all of these cases are unfair,” he said.
At least three of those executed were from the kingdom’s Sunni majority. It was not clear what their crimes were, but Saudi Arabia has struggled in recent years with domestic supporters of Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, both Sunni groups, which have carried out deadly attacks.
On Monday, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for an attack on a security building in the town of Zulfi, northwest of Riyadh, the capital. All four militants were killed, and three security officers were wounded in the attack, the Saudi authorities said.
Many executions in Saudi Arabia are done by beheading in a public square. The executions on Tuesday were carried out in cities around the kingdom, the statement said. One of the condemned men also had his body publicly displayed after he had been killed, which Saudi officials argue is a strong deterrent to would-be criminals.
The London-based rights group said Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor was seeking the death penalty for more people, noting that prominent preacher Sheikh Salman al-Awdah was one of those targeted for execution.
The Prisoners of Conscience, which is an independent non-governmental organization advocating human rights in Saudi Arabia, also announced in a post on its official Twitter page that Awdah, along with two other clerics, identified as Awad al-Qarni and Ali al-Omari, had been in prison for 19 months with no legal reasons.
The mass execution was the largest in Saudi Arabia since January 2016, when 47 men were executed in a single day, including an outspoken Shiite cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.
Sheikh Nimr’s execution caused protests in Iran, during which rioters stormed Saudi diplomatic buildings, leading to a breakdown in relations between the two countries.
Saudi officials have also intensified crackdown in the country’s Shia-populated Eastern Province.
Eastern Province has been the scene of peaceful demonstrations since February 2011. Protesters have been demanding reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination against the oil-rich region.Residents of Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, where the kingdom’s Shiites are concentrated, reported an increased police presence, presumably to guard against possible unrest.
Saudi Arabia also carried out three other unrelated executions on Tuesday, bringing the number of such punishments this year to 106, according to a count by Human Rights Watch.
The kingdom executed 148 people in 2018