Saudi Arabia Executes 7 in Public by Firing Squad
A Saudi firing squad Wednesday executed in public seven men convicted of armed robbery despite last-minute appeals by rights groups that their lives be spared, the interior ministry and a witness said.
The condemned men were convicted of "forming a gang that carried out several armed robberies and thefts with the help of other people," the ministry said in a statement published on the official SPA news agency.
They were executed "as a punishment to them and to deter others" from carrying out similar crimes, said SPA, adding that their fellow-robbers had been sentenced to various jail terms and lashes.
Executions in Saudi Arabia, which applies a strict interpretation of Islamic sharia law, are generally carried out by beheading but media reports said authorities were considering using firing squads due to lack of swordsmen.
Local Al-Yawm daily reported that the kingdom has formed a specialized committee to study the "possibility of replacing beheadings by the sword with firing squads as this is not against sharia (Islamic law)."
This is due to "the lack of beheaders who may sometimes take long to arrive at the execution site from other regions causing confusion," it said.
Also on Wednesday, authorities executed another national, Fada al-Subaie in the southwestern Mecca region, after he was convicted of murdering a fellow Saudi, SPA reported. It did not specify the method of his execution.
Wednesday's executions bring to 26 the number of people put to death in Saudi Arabia so far this year.
In 2012, the kingdom executed 76 people, according to an Agence France Presse tally based on official figures. The U.S.-based Human Rights Watch put the number at 69.
Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Saudi Arabia's strict version of sharia, or Islamic law.