Friday, April 02, 2010

"Sorcery" execution delayed...

Sanity has prevailed - provisionally. After intense pressure from everywhere, Saudi Arabia has delayed the execution of Ali Hussain Sibat - a Lebanese TV host and father of five. It is not clear for how long, or if they have decided to repeal his death penalty.

Here is short (about 3 min) piece on Channel 4 that shows clips from Sibat's TV program and also interviews his wife.

From NYT:

May al-Khansa, a lawyer working for Mr. Sabat in Lebanon, raised an alarm about Mr. Sabat’s possible execution this week when she said on Wednesday that she had been told he would be beheaded “within 48 hours.” On Friday, though, Ms. Khansa told The Associated Press that Lebanon’s justice minister had informed her that Mr. Sabat “would not be executed in Saudi Arabia today — the day executions are typically carried out in the kingdom after noon prayers.”

Since Saudi authorities do not always give notice of executions, and have not responded to requests for comment from foreign media organizations, the apparent delay in Mr. Sabat’s execution has yet to be confirmed.

Ms. Khansa told a BBC radio program that she had been told that he was still alive on Friday, “But after that I don’t have an answer as to if he will be alive or not. Time is passing and if they don’t kill him this Friday maybe next Friday.”

It also points to a story in LA Times that suggests Saudi politics behind Sibat's harsh sentence. This is definitely at play, however, one should remember that there have been other executions, including that of an Egyptian citizen, on similar charges, just in 2007. In any case, here is LA Times:

But there appears to be more at stake than the letter of the law. One Lebanese legal expert who is familiar with Saudi law and politics described the case against Sabat as a "muscle show" by conservatives who may be seeking to embarrass reformist leaders such as King Abdullah.

"I don't know on what grounds they arrested him, since he didn't commit [the crime] in Saudi, he's not a Saudi citizen, and it wasn't directed against Saudi, and usually one of these criteria must be fulfilled," the expert said, asking that her name not be published because she travels to Saudi Arabia.


The legal expert also speculated that Sabat, a father of five, was given the harshest sentence because he is a Shiite Muslim. Shiites are often marginalized and persecuted in Saudi Arabia, which enforces a strict interpretation of Sunni Islam.

"The conservatives want to show everyone, 'We are here and we're still powerful and we can do whatever we want'," the expert said.

Read the full LA Times story here. I think some of this may indeed be true. However, Sibat's case may more have to do with modern communication technology, i.e. it is getting harder to get away with these kind of decisions. I won't be surprised at all to find out that Saudi Arabia executed far more people on even lesser charges before the 1990s. Technology 1, Barbarism 0.

Also see:

Beheading on "sorcery" charges expected on Friday

Still no sense from Saudi Arabia on sorcery death sentence

Sorcery Charges: Saudi Arabia boldly marches into the 15th century


emre said...

I don't know, Salman, he looks pretty magical to me. If the good folks at the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice said he's a sorcerer, it must be so. Can he prove that he isn't a sorcerer? I thought not.

But wait, I see a light at the end of the tunnel: what if he practices white magic? Not all sorcerers are nefarious, black magicians. He might be one of the good guys.

Salman Hameed said...

Hmm...that would be an interesting defense strategy...

But then the whole thing is so crazy, that the color of magic may actually be a serious consideration. Who knows? The proceedings were secret anyways...

Atif Khan said...

If he is a real black magician or white he could have won James Randy million dollar challenge.

I firmly believe there is no such thing as magic.

emre said...

Come on, Atif, have a little heart. Next you'll be telling us there is no tooth fairy or Santa Claus.

We all need a little magic in our lives.

Atif Khan said...

@emre... I love magic :P

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