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Saudi Arabia executes four 'terrorism' convicts in Qatif

Qatif has long been a flashpoint of tensions with the kingdom's Shias [AFP]

Date of publication: 11 July, 2017

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Saudi Arabia has executed four people convinced of terrorism in the Shia majority eastern province of Qatif, the interior ministry has said.

Saudi Arabia executed four people convinced of terrorism in the Shia majority eastern province of Qatif, state television said on Tuesday quoting a statement by the Interior Ministry.

The ministry named the convicts as Amjad Naji al-Moebid, Zaher Abdulrahim al-Basri, Yousif Ali Almushaikhis and Mahdi Mohammed Hassan Sayegh.

Al-Basri and the other three convicts were found guilty of involvement in several terror attacks since 2011, including shooting at their guardians, using weapons and explosive devices that targeted the Tarut police station and several security patrol units in the restive Eastern Province area.

The oil-rich region has been rocked by unrest since 2011, when Shia protests erupted to demand equality in the Gulf kingdom.

Authorities have blamed the unrest on "terrorists" and drug traffickers.

In May, bulldozers began demolishing al-Awamiya's historic district in Qatif, with plans to tear down several hundred homes, as officials allege it has become a hideout for local militants.

The destruction sparked shoot-outs in the streets between Saudi security forces and Shia gunmen, and stoked sectarian tensions that resonate around the region.

The Saudi Press Agency reported 153 people being executed in the ultra-conservative kingdom last year, a number confirmed by London-based rights group Amnesty International.

Most executions in 2016, including that of high-profile Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr, were carried out in a single day in January.

Nimr rallied thousands in al-Awamiya during Arab Spring protests in 2011, linking their movement for social justice and greater rights with the Shia-led sit-ins in nearby Bahrain.

His execution sparked backlash in Iran that led to the ransacking of the Saudi Embassy and a complete severing of ties between the two countries.

"It is a bloody day when the Saudi Arabian authorities execute 47 people, some of whom were clearly sentenced to death after grossly unfair trials," Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme, said at the time.

"Carrying out a death sentence when there are serious questions about the fairness of the trial is a monstrous and irreversible injustice," he added, urging Saudi authorities to "heed the growing chorus of international criticism and put an end to their execution spree".

Amnesty reported 158 death penalties in the country for 2015, the highest annual rate in the past two decades.

Saudi Arabia has a strict Islamic legal code under which murder, drug trafficking, armed robbery, rape and apostasy are all punishable by death.

The kingdom is one of four countries – the others are North Korea, Somalia and Iran – which still carries out public executions.

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