RIYADH: Saudi Arabia said on Saturday it executed a record 81 people in one day for a variety of terrorism-related offences, exceeding the total number it sentenced to death last year.
All had been “found guilty of committing multiple heinous crimes”, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported, saying they included convicts linked to the militant Islamic State (IS) group, or Al Qaeda, Yemen’s Houthi rebel forces or “other terrorist organisations”.
Those executed had been plotting attacks in the kingdom — including killing of a large number of civilians and members of the security forces, the SPA statement read.
“They also include convictions for targeting government personnel and vital economic sites, the killing of law enforcement officers and maiming their bodies, and planting land mines to target police vehicles,” the SPA said.
“The convictions include crimes of kidnapping, torture, rape, smuggling arms and bombs into the kingdom,” it added.
Of the 81 people killed — the kingdom’s highest number of recorded executions in one day — 73 were Saudi citizens, seven were Yemeni and one was a Syrian national.
SPA said all those executed were tried in Saudi courts, with trials overseen by 13 judges, held over three separate stages for each individual.
“The kingdom will continue to take a strict and unwavering stance against terrorism and extremist ideologies that threaten stability,” the report by SPA added.
The wealthy Gulf country has one of the world’s highest execution rates, and has often carried out death sentences by beheading.
Saudi Arabia has been the target of a series of deadly shootings and bombings since late 2014 carried out by IS fighters.
Saudi Arabia is also leading a military coalition that has been fighting in Yemen since 2015 to support the government against Iran-backed Houthi rebels, and who have launched strikes on the kingdom.
Saturday’s announcement of 81 deaths came against the backdrop of a total of 69 executions in all of 2021.
Published in Dawn, March 13th, 2022