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Twelve minority Shia might face imminent execution in Saudi Arabia: Amnesty

Saudi Arabia's flag features a sword underneath the Muslim shahada [Getty]

Date of publication: 7 November, 2018

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The men were sentenced to death in December 2016 in what rights groups dubbed a mass unfair trial.
Twelve Saudi men from the kingdom's Shia minority were trasferred to the "Presidency of State Security", a development which rights groups fear could mean their imminent execution.

"The families of the men are terrified by this development and the lack of information provided to them on the status of the cases of their loved ones. Given the secrecy surrounding Saudi Arabia's judicial proceedings, we fear that this development signals the imminent execution of the twelve men," said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa director.

The 12 men were sentenced to death in December 2016 in what Amnesty calls an unfair mass trial.

Executions in Saudi Arabia typically occur under a shroud of mystery.

Families are given little information about the state of the legal case against death row inmates and are typically not informed about execution dates beforehand, according to Amnesty International.

The Presidency of State Security is a new body under King Salman's direct authority and it replaced in June 2017 under a royal decree the Ministry of Interior's powers to investigate.

Amnesty described last year's move as concentrating power in the hands of the Saudi king.

The ultra-conservative kingdom has one of the world's highest rates of execution, with suspects convicted of terrorism, homicide, rape, armed robbery and drug trafficking facing the death penalty.

Saudi Arabia had the third highest execution rate in the world in 2017, after China and Iran, according to Amnesty International. 

Saudi Arabia has carried out around 600 executions since 2014, with over 200 as drug cases. Most of the rest were for murder, but also included other crimes such as "sorcery".

The kingdom also uses the death penalty to stifle dissent and last month drew international outrage over the murder of dissident and insider-turned-critic Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Most people are executed by public beheading or firing squad inside the kingdom. 

Agencies contributed to this report. 

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