Amnesty says Saudi beheading for sorcery “shocking”

DUBAI, (Reuters) – Rights group Amnesty  International has described as “deeply shocking” Saudi Arabia’s  beheading of a woman convicted on charges of “sorcery and  witchcraft”, saying it underlined the urgent need to end  executions in the kingdom.
Saudi national Amina bint Abdul Halim bin Salem Nasser was  executed on Monday in the northern province of al-Jawf after  being tried and convicted for practising sorcery, the interior  ministry said, without giving details of the charges.
“The citizen… practised acts of witchcraft and sorcery,”  Saudi newspaper al-Watan cited the interior ministry as saying.  “The death sentence was carried out on the accused yesterday  (Monday) in the Qurayyat district in al-Jawf region”.
Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy, has no written criminal  code, which is instead based on an uncodified form of Islamic  sharia law as interpreted by the country’s judges.
“While we don’t know the details of the acts which the  authorities accused Amina of committing, the charge of sorcery  has often been used in Saudi Arabia to punish people, generally  after unfair trials, for exercising their right to freedom of  speech or religion,” Philip Luther, interim director of  Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa programme, said in a  statement.
Amnesty said the execution was the second of its kind in  recent months. A Sudanese national was beheaded in the Saudi  city of Medina in September after being convicted on sorcery  charges, according to the London-based group.
Amnesty put at 79 the number of executions in Saudi Arabia  so far this year, nearly triple the figure in 2010.

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