Los Angeles Times

Saudi Arabia beheads 37, most Shiites


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Saudi Arabia on Tuesday beheaded 37 Saudi citizens, most of them minority Shiites, in a mass execution across the country over what it said were terrorism-related crimes. It publicly attached one man’s body and severed head to a pole as a warning to others.

The executions were likely to stoke further regional and sectarian tensions between rivals Sunniled Saudi Arabia and Shiiteled Iran.

Ali Ahmed, a dissident who runs the Institute for Gulf Affairs in Washington, identified 34 of those executed as Shiites based on the names announced by the Interior Ministry. “This is the largest mass execution of Shiites in the kingdom’s history,” he said.

Amnesty Internatio­nal, which confirmed the majority of those executed were Shiite men, said they were convicted “after sham trials” that relied on confession­s extracted through torture.

The mass killing marked the largest number of executions in one day in Saudi Arabia since Jan. 2, 2016, when the kingdom executed 47 people over what it called terrorism-related crimes.

The kingdom has been emboldened by President Trump’s dedication to pressuring Iran’s leadership. Ahmed said the executions were to send a message to Iran: “They didn’t have to execute these people, but it’s important for them to ride the American anti-Iranian wave.”

Ahmed said among those executed was Shiite religious leader Mohammed Attiyah. Among the charges against him was that he tried to form a sectarian group, Ahmed said, adding that Attiyah publicly spoke of the need to work closely with Saudi Arabia’s Sunni majority.

Saudi Arabia’s supreme council of Muslim scholars said the executions were carried out in accordance with Islamic law; King Salman ratified the mass execution by royal decree.

The Interior Ministry statement said those executed had adopted extremist ideologies and formed terrorist cells with the aim of spreading chaos and provoking sectarian strife. The ministry, which indicated the executions were all beheadings, said the body of one man was attached to a pole for several hours; it did not say in which city the display took place.

The killings bring the number of people executed this year to about 100, according to official announceme­nts.

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