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Saudi executes 70th person this year

RIYADH (AsiaNews): The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has carried out its 70th execution for this year. The Saudi Ministry of the Interior announced on March 7 that Alaa al-Zahrani was stoned to death after being convicted in Jeddah.

Last year, 153 death sentences were carried out, most of them for drug trafficking and murder. This was the highest number in 20 years.

At the beginning of this year Riyadh executed 47 people accused of terrorism, including the Shiite dignitary, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a leading figure of protest against the Saudi regime.

The execution sparked outrage—both locally and in diplomatic circles—between Saudi Arabia (Wahhabi branch of Sunni Islam) and Iran (Shiite Islam), which is likely to further inflame the already complicated picture in the Middle East.

Most death sentences are carried out by decapitation.

For years the main human rights associations and many western governments have been calling on Saudi to have fairer trials and less cruel forms of execution.

Saudi Arabia, where Sharia Law is strictly observed, is the only country in the world where beheading in the public square is legal.

Capital punishment in the kingdom is handed down for murder, armed robbery, rape and drug trafficking, but also for witchcraft and sodomy. Minor crimes, such as theft and the crime of opinion, can bring imprisonment, the cutting off of the hand or foot, or public flogging.

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