Rights groups have repeatedly raised concerns about the fairness of trials in Saudi Arabia [Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters]
Saudi Arabia executed 37 of its citizens on Tuesday for what it said were “terrorism” related crimes, publicly pinning at least one of the bodies to a pole as a warning to others.
The individuals were found guilty of attacking security installations with explosives, killing a number of security officers, and cooperating with “enemy organisations” against the interests of the country, the interior ministry said in a statement.
The sentences were carried out in Riyadh, the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina, central Qassim province, and Eastern Province, home to the country’s Shia minority
The men were executed “for adopting terrorist and extremist thinking and for forming terrorist cells to corrupt and destabilise security”, a statement by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said.
Two of the executed men’s bodies were publicly hung from a pole for several hours in a process that is not frequently used by the kingdom and has sparked controversy for its grisly display.
The interior ministry said the individuals had been found guilty according to the law and ordered executed by the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh, which focuses on terrorism trials, and the country’s high court.
The report didn’t state how the death penalty was implemented, but executions in Saudi Arabia are known to be carried out by shooting or beheading with a sword, sometimes in public.
Executions are traditionally carried out after midday prayers. Public displays of the bodies of executed people last for around three hours until late afternoon prayers, with the severed head and body hoisted to the top of a pole overlooking a main square.
The state killings came a day after the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) said it was behind an attack on Sunday on a Saudi security building in the town of Zulfi. In that attack, all four gunmen were killed and three security officers were wounded.
At least 100 people have been executed in Saudi Arabia since the beginning of the year, according to a count based on official data released by SPA.
Last year, the oil-rich Gulf state carried out the death sentences of 149 people, according to Amnesty International, which said only Iran was known to have executed more people.
People convicted of terrorism, homicide, rape, armed robbery and drug trafficking face the death penalty, which the government says is a deterrent for further crime.