Saudi Arabia executions rise to new high this year

RIYADH, June 11, 2007 (AFP) – Not even the king can save a convict on death row for premeditated murder from the executioner’s sword in Saudi Arabia. However, Amnesty International, in its 2007 report, said “many defendants complained that they were not represented by lawyers and were not informed of the progress of their trial”. The death penalty is here to stay in the ultra-conservative kingdom, where there has been a dramatic spike in the number of executions this year — whether as a result of rising crime or lower tolerance in a country governed by strict Islamic law.

Instead, turning to a more merciful side of Islamic law, rights activists try to secure a pardon from the victim’s family, a drawn-out process that involves all sorts of mediators.

“But we seek to constrain the authority of the judge in cases where the death sentence is left to his discretion,” said Mufleh al-Kahtani, vice president of the National Society for Human Rights, the first rights watchdog sanctioned by the government in March 2004.

Ninety-one people — including some from Asian countries such as Pakistan and Sri Lanka — have been executed in the ultra-conser