Blood Money

RIYADH, Feb 24, 2007 (AFP) – A 97-year-old Saudi man waiting to be beheaded for murder has launched an appeal for donations of blood money in order to spare him from the death sentence, a local newspaper reported on Saturday. H. al-Zahrani, who has been imprisoned for several years, made his plea to raise 2.6 million riyals (approximately 700,000 dollars) for paying damages to his victim’s family in the Al-Madina daily.

The paper said Zahrani is being detained in Al-Baha, western Saudi Arabia, but did not disclose the date of his sentence or any details on the murder, saying only that the victim’s family had agreed to pardon Zahrani in exchange for financial compensation.

Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking can all carry the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, which applies a strict form of Islamic law. But a condemned person can earn a reprieve if the family of their victim agrees to accept money as compensation.

There have been 17 beheadings by sword announced by the Saudi authorities so far this year. For the whole of 2006, at least 37 people were executed, while 83 were put to death in 2005 and 35 the year before, according to AFP tallies based on official statements.