"The burden of proof is overwhelming ... and clearly shows official Iranian responsibility for this. Somebody in Iran will have to pay the price," Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal said.
I am not surprised that the Saudi Prince is incapable of correctly using the phrase "burden of proof" in a sentence. The burden of proof for punishment of crime should be overwhelming, so stop crucifying people and cutting off hands and heads and whipping women for driving until you can figure it all out. Thank you very much.
Saudi Court Sentences Thief To Beheading and Crucifixion
FRANCISCO DE ANDRÉS | MADRID
The sentence conferred on the leader of a band of robbers is surprising for its cruelty, and reveals the toughening of the regime under the direction of the “super minister” Nayef. A Saudi court has sentenced the leader of a theft ring to death by decapitation, whose body is to be then crucified in a public place for a period of three days.
This fact, revealed by the Saudi newspaper “Al Okaz,” has caused some consternation in the kingdom of Saud because of its uncommon, lurid details. This, the most fundamentalist regime in the Arabian Gulf, punishes the crimes of murder, rape, and drug trafficking with decapitation, but this penalty is rarely imposed on thieves, even in cases of armed robbery.
Along with the leader of this band of thieves, identified as Surhan al Asiri, another six members of the group have also been sentenced to beheading by sword. According to Al Okaz, the seven condemned men have asked for a court of appeals to review their sentences. Only a few months ago Amnesty International denounced that public executions carried out under Saudi justice have increased at an alarming rate, and could reach an average of two per week.
In Riadh, the capital, executions are carried out in the infamous “chop-chop” square (in the local slang) across from the governor’s mansion and where king Abdelaziz bin Saud came to power a little more than a century ago. The executions take place after the customary Friday prayer in the mosques, where the religious police make sure that no spectator can record them on their video cameras or cell phones.
At least half the victims of public executions are foreigners who come from poor countries in Asia and Africa, according to the report of Amnesty International. “The process through which the death penalty is imposed is tough, mostly secret and terribly unfair. The judges, all of them men, enjoy ample, discretionary powers”, says the text of the London-based organization.
Criminal prosecution in Saudi Arabia and the strict application of Islamic law has the seal of approval of the all-powerful interior minister, Nayef bin Abdulaziz. Step brother of king Abdula, Nayif was promoted last April to second vice prime minister of the country, a move that, according to analysts, has placed him as a favorite in the line of succession to the ailing monarch.
Chop Chop Square: Inside Saudi Arabia’s brutal justice system.
A SLENDER SWORD — four feet of shining steel, curved at the end — hovers high above a kneeling figure shrouded in white. Only the kneeler’s neck is exposed. Sixty or so men watch from the edge of a granite courtyard, behind a patchy line of eight soldiers in tan uniforms. The man wielding the sword looms high, almost spectral, in a flowing white dishdasha and a red-checked headcloth. He is ready to swing but then steps back. He huddles with two police and the one person who can make this stop: the victim of the crime that’s being punished.
The huddle breaks, and the executioner retakes his position, left of the condemned. He sets his right leg forward and his left leg back, as if about to stretch his left calf. Sunlight flashes on the blade as he draws it above his head.
This is Saudi Arabia, one of the last places on earth where capital punishment is a public spectacle. Decapitation awaits murderers, but the death penalty also applies to many other crimes, such as armed robbery, rape, adultery, drug use and trafficking, and renouncing Islam. There’s a woman on death row now for witchcraft, and the charge is based partly on a man’s accusation that her spell made him impotent. Saudi Arabia executed some 1,750 convicts between 1985 and 2008, yet reliable information about the practice is scarce.
In Riyadh, beheadings happen at 9 a.m. any given day of the week, and there is no advance notice. There is also no written penal code, so questions of illegality depend on the on-the-spot interpretations of police and judges.
What’s certain is that the Koran guides the justice system, with some laws passed to address areas the holy book does not. The Saudi interpretation of the Koran discourages all forms of evidence other than confessions and eyewitness accounts in capital trials, on the theory that doing otherwise would leave too much discretion to the judge. But at any time until the sword strikes, a victim’s family can pardon the condemned — usually for a cash settlement of at least two million riyals ($690,000 or so) from the convict or his family.
In rare cases, often politically sensitive ones, King Abdullah grants a pardon, one of the last hopes for Canadian national Mohamed Kohail, now twenty-four,who faces beheading after being convicted for the murder of a Syrian youth during a schoolyard brawl in Jeddah. His younger brother Sultan, who reportedly instigated the fight by insulting a Syrian girl, could also face the death penalty, as his case has been transferred to an adult court on appeal. Allegedly, Mohamed was told that if he signed a document stating that he punched the victim in the stomach, he would be freed. Many who live to recount their experience in the Saudi justice system report that police promised freedom in exchange for a confession — or tortured them to get one.
In Riyadh, beheadings take place in a downtown public square equipped with a drain the size of a pizza box in its centre. Expatriates call it Chop Chop Square. I showed up at 9 a.m. most days for several weeks. After arriving at the barren granite expanse for yet another morning, I’d drink tea with merchants in the bazaar next door. Popular opinion seems to allow more respect for the executioners than sympathy for those wrongfully convicted, and rumours about the mysterious swordsmen abound. “He must kill,” one carpet dealer told me. “If he doesn’t kill for a few days, they give him a sheep to kill.” The job is a coveted one, often passed from father to son. In a Lebanese TV clip now on YouTube, a Saudi executioner shows off his swords and describes his approach: “If the heart is compassionate, the hand fails.”
Still, the process is less overtly public now than it once was. Corpses aren’t hung for display in the square as often, and beheadings drew much bigger crowds when they were a regular event, held on Fridays after noon prayers. No formal event or fanfare begins or ends them now, and nothing indicates awareness or concern about how alien this is to outsiders.
At 8:55 a.m. on a Monday morning, I arrive at Chop Chop Square for my regular check-in. In the middle is a police car, a yellow van, and the executioner in a crisp white dishdasha. Despite all I’ve learned in the past two weeks, what is about to happen still seems impossible.
At 9 a.m., the executioner gently lowers the blade to jab at the condemned’s neck, which jerks the prisoner’s body to attention. Then the real blow: the blade is drawn high up, then swung back down. It cleaves skin, muscle, and bone with a hollow, echoing thud. A lurid crimson waterfall chases the head to the granite with the sound of a wet rag being wrung out over a stainless steel sink. The body sways forward, snaps up, and slumps off to the right.
The executioner wipes his blade with a white cloth that he then tosses away. It flutters in small arcs as two men in blue jumpsuits descend from the yellow van, hoist the body, and lay it on a stretcher. One grabs the head by the cloth tube that covers it. A loudspeaker lists the decapitated man’s crimes: rape, drug trafficking, and possession. The executioner sheathes his sword. A thickly bearded soldier claps his hands and wipes them against each other in the air — that’s it. By 9:05, the only other person in Chop Chop Square is a janitor, hosing down the granite.