Sunday, March 21, 2010

Still no sense from Saudi Arabia on sorcery death sentence

A few months back I had posted about a ridiculous court case where a Lebanese TV host, Ali Hussain Sibat, had been sentenced to death on sorcery charges in Saudi Arabia (he is pictured above with two of his five children - image from CNN). This is a serious issue. In 2007, an Egyptian pharmacist, working in the Saudi Kingdom, was executed on sorcery charges. Ali Hussain Sibat appealed the decision - but now it seems that he is facing the death penalty again despite the appellate court finding the initial verdict premature:

According to El Khansa, Sibat appealed the verdict. The case was taken up by the Court of Appeal in the Saudi city of Mecca on the grounds that the initial verdict was "premature."

El Khansa tells CNN that the Mecca appeals court then sent the case back to the original court for reconsideration, stipulating that all charges made against Sibat needed to be verified and that he should be given a chance to repent.

On March 10, judges in Medina upheld their initial verdict, meaning Sibat is once again sentenced to be executed.

"The Medina court refused the sentence of the appeals court," said El Khansa, adding her client will appeal the verdict once more.


According to Arab News, an English language Saudi daily newspaper, after the most recent verdict was issued, the judges in Medina issued a statement expressing that Sibat deserved to be executed for having continually practiced black magic on his show, adding that this sentence would deter others from practicing sorcery.

Arab News reports that the case will now return to the appeals court in Mecca.

If a human life was not at stake, we would have simply shook our heads in disappointment and perhaps walked away. But now the consequences makes the whole issue disgusting. I know that Jahiliyya is a loaded term - but this action of the Saudi court would qualify as such in any contemporary society - the Taliban excluded.

Read the full story here. Here is an appeal from the Amnesty International to write to the Saudi King (you will also find more details about the case there):

PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELY in Arabic, English or your own language:

  • Urging the King to halt the execution of ‘Ali Hussain Sibat and the man sentenced to death on “apostasy” charges in Hail in July 2009, if their sentences are upheld by the Supreme Court;

  • Calling on the authorities to release ‘Ali Hussain Sibat and the other man immediately and unconditionally if they have been convicted solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression;

  • Urging the authorities to desist from charging and convicting people for “apostasy,” as it violates the legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of expression and freedom of religion.


King and Prime Minister

His Majesty King ‘Abdullah Bin ‘Abdul ‘Aziz Al-Saud

The Custodian of the two Holy Mosques

Office of His Majesty the King

Royal Court, Riyadh

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Fax: (via Ministry of the Interior)

+966 1 403 1185 (please keep trying)

Salutation: Your Majesty

Second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior

His Royal Highness Prince Naif bin ‘Abdul ‘Aziz Al-Saud, Ministry of the Interior, P.O. Box 2933, Airport Road

Riyadh 11134

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Fax: +966 1 403 1185 (please keep trying)

Salutation: Your Royal Highness

And copies to:

President, Human Rights Commission

Bandar Mohammed ‘Abdullah al- Aiban

Human Rights Commission

P.O. Box 58889, King Fahad Road, Building No. 373, Riyadh 11515

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Fax: +966 1 461 2061


Salutation: Dear Mr al-Aiban

Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country. Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date. This is the first update of UA 328/09. Further information:

Please do take a minute to write these letters.


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