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Saudi Arabia beheads 151 people so far this year, highest in 2 decades

A Saudi man convicted of killing a police officer was executed by beheading on Monday, raising the number of people executed in the kingdom so far this year to 151, the highest figure in two decades.

Ayed al-Jahdali was beheaded in the western Mecca region after being convicted of killing a police officer who was trying to arrest him for alleged drug trafficking, the kingdom’s interior ministry said in a statement.

Monday’s beheading raises the number of people executed in Saudi Arabia so far this year to at least 151, according to a count by Amnesty International, which shows that, on average this year, one person has been executed every other day.

“The use of the death penalty is abhorrent in any circumstance but it is especially alarming that the Saudi Arabian authorities continue to use it in violation of international human rights law and standards, on such a wide scale, and after trials which are grossly unfair and sometimes politically motivated,” said James Lynch, Deputy Director at Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

The number of executions this year mark a 68 percent increase when compared to last year, when a total 90 people are known to have been executed. The last time Saudi Arabia executed more than 150 people in a single year was in 1995, when 192 executions were recorded.

Almost half of the 151 executions carried out so far this year were for non-lethal offenses, such as drug-related convictions. Amnesty International says many trials lack “basic safeguards for fair trial provided for under international human rights law and standards.”

The kingdom applies the death penalty for a large number of crimes, including drug offenses, apostasy, sorcery and witchcraft. Both witchcraft and sorcery are not listed as crimes but have been used to prosecute people for exercising their right to freedom of speech or religion, according to activists.

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