Saudi Arabia on Tuesday killed 37 of its citizens convicted of “terrorism”, a rare mass execution in the kingdom three years after dozens of people who precipitated the break-up of relations with Iran.
Tuesday’s executions took place in six regions: the capital Ryad, the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, the Sunni region of Al-Qassim (center), that of Assir (south) and that of the Eastern Province where the Shia minority is concentrated, according to the Interior Ministry.
They bring to more than 100 the number of people killed in Saudi Arabia since the beginning of the year, according to a count established from official communiqués.
According to Amnesty International, the kingdom, following a rigorous version of Islam, is among the leading countries in the world’s death penalty.
In its global report on the death penalty for the year 2018, the organization says that behind China (which does not publish statistics), the countries with the most massive use of executions are Iran (253), Saudi Arabia (149), Vietnam (85) and Iraq (52).
- “Confessional Sedition” –
The 37 people executed on Tuesday in Saudi Arabia were all found guilty of “adopting extremist terrorist thinking” and “forming terrorist cells,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement issued by the agency. official SPA.
Some have been accused of “confessional sedition”, a term commonly used in Saudi Arabia for Shiite militants.
The use of this term and the fact that the executions took place in Sunni and Shiite areas seem to support the thesis that the tortured are Sunni jihadists and Shiite militants.
The High Ulema Committee, which brought together the highest religious figures in the kingdom, justified the executions, stressing in a statement that they were “Shariah compliant”.
Executions generally take place by beheading in Saudi Arabia. The Interior Ministry said one of Tuesday’s victims was crucified, a treatment reserved for the most serious crimes.
Saudi Arabia keeps repeating that it is at war with “all forms of terrorism”. After the waves of attacks in the early 2000s, the country managed to contain the threat of jihadist groups, without eradicating them completely.
On Sunday, four Saudis died while trying to attack a security headquarters in the north of Riyadh, in a bombing claimed by the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group.
The authorities announced the arrest the next day of 13 people suspected of “terrorist acts” without specifying whether or not they were linked to the attack on Sunday.
The previous mass execution in Saudi Arabia dates back to January 2016 when 47 people, also convicted of “terrorism“, including Shiite cleric Nimr Baqer al-Nimr, were put to death the same day.
- Break with Iran –
Eastern Province has been the scene of recurring troubles since 2011, when it was shaken by a strong protest movement in the wake of the Arab Spring.
It was also the cradle of Nimr Baqer al-Nimr, a virulent critic of the Saudi regime and a figure in the protest movement.
The Shiite community is estimated to account for between 10 and 15 percent of the 32 million Saudis, but the Sunni-led dynasty has not published any official statistics.
The execution of Nimr Baqer al-Nimr led to demonstrations in Iran during which Saudi diplomatic missions were attacked.
In response, Saudi Arabia broke off its diplomatic relations with Iran in January 2016, which it regularly accuses of “destabilizing” the Gulf and interfering in the internal affairs of the countries of the region.
Ryad gives as an example of such interference Tehran‘s support for the Shiite Houthi rebels who took control of the Yemeni capital Sanaa and other areas from 2014.
Saudi Arabia has formed a military coalition since March 2015 in this country to prevent the Houthis from taking full control of the country on its southern border.