Saudi execution spree continues as fears rise for Jordanian on death row | saudi arabia

Saudi Arabia on Tuesday executed two more Saudi citizens for drug offences, taking the total number of executions in the past fortnight to 17.

The kingdom had previously given a commitment it would not impose the death penalty for drug offences, but has suddenly gone back on its word, executing seven Saudi and 10 foreign nationals. Saudi Arabia has already executed 130 people this year.

The spate of executions, as the kingdom celebrates its victory over Argentina in the World Cup, has prompted the former Conservative cabinet minister David Davis to write to the UK foreign secretary, James Cleverly, and the Saudi ambassador in the UK to ask them to intervene to reprieve Hussein Abo al-Kheir, a Jordanian man.

In his letter to Cleverly, Davis says: “Hussein was born into a poor family and, prior to his arrest, worked low-paid jobs to support his eight children: as a taxi driver, bus attendant and fruit and vegetable vendor. It remains absurd that this impoverished father of eight could ever have been a drug ‘kingpin’; he had neither the money nor connections to buy large quantities of drugs in Jordan to sell in Saudi Arabia.”

Kheir, who is represented by the campaign group Reprieve, was moved to a death row cell on Friday.

He was arrested in 2014 for smuggling narcotics when crossing the Jordan border into Saudi, and says he only confessed when he was tortured, including being suspended from his feet and beaten on his stomach and legs. An appeal court lifted a guilty verdict in March 2017, but the government ordered a retrial six months later, leading to him being re-sentenced to death in November 2017.

The UN working group on arbitrary detention in October said his arrest has been arbitrary, and he should be released immediately.

The Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, told media in previous interviews: “Regarding the death penalty we are getting rid of it in its entirety,” adding this would be except in circumstances where “someone has killed another person or threatens the lives of many people”.

Taha al-Hajji, a former capital defense lawyer who now works at the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights, said: “There is no logical explanation for its return to executions.

“But I think the pause coincided with the global criticism of the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. The executions returned after the media and human rights campaigns slowed down.”

Kheir rank his sister in Canada on Monday night effectively to say goodbye. His sister quoted him as in despair saying: “Sister, it has been nine years, they have not released me nor have they killed me, they can do whatever they want to do with me now. They just do whatever they want now.”

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