Saudi Arabia beheads Prince Al-Kabeer for fatal shooting

A prince who was convicted of killing a man after an argument has been decapitated by sword in Saudi Arabia, the kingdom's government reported on Tuesday, marking the first execution of a member of the royal family since 1977.

Prince Turki bin Saud Al-Kabeer had pleaded guilty to shooting to death Adel bin Sulaiman Al-Mihaimeed after a group quarrel, according to a brief statement released by the interior ministry. It did not say when or why the man was killed.

"Security forces were successful to apprehend the above-mentioned culprit as investigation into the case resulted in accusing him of committing the crime and referring him to the General Court, which ruled that the accusation proved to be correct and sentenced him to death in retribution," the statement said.

Other details about the case were not disclosed, but a news report in 2014 claimed that a prince - whose name was not disclosed - had been sentenced to death by a court in Riyadh. It said that the prince shot and killed a friend after a dispute in December 2012 and that a second person had been injured.

Prince Al-Kabeer was executed in Riyadh on Tuesday, the interior ministry said.

Though Saudi Arabia has a large royal family, it marks the first time in nearly 40 years that Saudi Arabia has executed a member of the House of Saud. Princess Misha'el bint Fahd, who was just 19 years old at the time and a great-niece of King Khalid, was executed in June 1977 after being convicted of adultery.

Misha'el had refused to marry a man selected by her family and fell in love with another man, Khalid Muhallal. They were arrested while trying to flee the kingdom and she allegedly confessed to adultery. The princess was shot in the head in public before Muhallal, who witnessed her execution, was beheaded.

Just two years earlier, Prince Faisal bin Musaid was executed after being convicted for the assassination of his nephew King Faisal in March 1975. Three months later, within hours of the conviction, the prince was beheaded by sword in front of thousands of people.

Tuesday's beheading, the 134th of this year, adds to a surge in executions that began in late 2014, angering human rights organizations because many of those killed were convicted of non-lethal crimes. Four family members were all beheaded on the same day in August 2014 for merely possessing hashish.

At least 158 people were executed in Saudi Arabia last year, the highest figure in two decades and nearly half of them were killed for non-lethal crimes. Amnesty International says many trials in Saudi Arabia 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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