Saudi Arabia is on course for a record number of beheadings and crucifixions in 2019 if their executions continue at the present rate.
The desert kingdom has already executed 43 people in the first three months of this year – the most recent being a Syrian man who was put to death on March 13th for smuggling amphetamine pills.
If this rate continues, 172 will have been put to death by the end of the year – more than ever before.
So far, 21 people have been beheaded for drugs offences. But other crimes which carry the death penalty include adultery, renouncing Islam, treason, espionage, burglary as well as murder, terrorism, rape or espionage.
Mounds erected in a public square in Abha, Saudi Arabia ready for the public execution of seven men. The number of killings in the desert kingdom has increased rapidly since 2017
Despite an upward trend in the number of executions since 2000, Saudi Arabia is still in third place behind China and Iran, where between 249 and 285 people respectively were executed in 2018. In 4th and 5th place are Iraq and Pakistan.
The figures were compiled by human rights groups such as Death Penalty Worldwide, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
Figures released in December by the watchdog, Reprieve, showed that executions doubled in Saudi Arabia under the new ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The number of people put to death between June 2017 – when MBS came to power – and March 2018 was 133, compared to just 67 in the preceding eight months before he was installed.
Authorities in capital Riyadh advertised for eight new executioners because it couldn’t keep up with the rising number of death sentences
Nearly half of those were poor migrants, mostly from South Asia, who had been coerced into smuggling drugs.
Reprieve said that there had been nearly 700 executions in Saudi Arabia since 2014, averaging 13 a month.
In January 2016, 47 were killed in one day across 12 different provinces after being convicted of terrorism offences.
This was Saudi Arabia’s largest mass execution since 1980, when 63 rebels were put to death for seizing Mecca’s Grand Mosque.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (pictured with Donald Trump in the Oval Office) has overseen a rapid increase in the number of executions since the star of his rule
In 2015 the authorities in Riyadh advertised for eight new executioners because it couldn’t keep up with the rising number of death sentences.
It asked for no specific skills but said the job included ‘executing a judgement of death’.
Nearly 40 per cent (58 people) of those executed last year were convicted of drugs offences, with 77 per cent of them being foreign nationals.
‘These are typically poor migrant workers, coerced into smuggling drugs in their intestines,’ said Reprieve.
Former-Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef bin Al Saud was removed from office and lost his place in line to the throne in 2017, and is believed to confined to his palace in the capital Riyadh
In October, Saudi Arabia an Indonesian maid, Tuti Tursilawati, without either her family or the Indonesian authorities even being told.
She had been found guilty in June 2011 of killing her Saudi employer, but claimed she had acted in self-defence after he tried to rape her.
Yesterday it emerged that a Saudi royal adviser sacked for being behind the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi was not among those on trial for the killing.
Saud al-Qahtani was said to have ordered the killing over Skype with the words: ‘Bring me the head of the dog’.
But sources said he was not among 11 people now on trial, who face the death penalty if convicted.
Royal adviser Saud al-Qahtani, who was said to be behind killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, is not among the 11 people now on trial for the murder and could face the death penalty if convicted
Who is the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman?
The Crown Prince – known simply as MBS – (pictured at a conference in Riyadh in October) was warmly embraced by the West for his liberal reforms, but the murder of Jamal Khashoggi has left his reputation severely tarnished
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is known as the true power behind the throne in Saudi Arabia.
His father, King Salman, was made ruler in 2015, and his son has been given a huge amount of say in how the country is government.
He won plaudits from Western leaders after he introduced some moderate reforms – allowing women in Saudi Arabia to drive for the first time ever and introducing cinemas to the country.
The Crown Prince – known simply as MBS – also reined in the country’s fierce and ultra conservative religious police.
Leaders including Theresa May and Donald Trump have rolled out the red carpet for him during his lavish visits.
But the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi has severely damaged his reputation.
MBS has been accused of ordering the journalist’s murder, and the killing sparked calls for him to be replaced as Crown Prince.
While the Saudi authorities have publicly insisted the Prince does not have blood on his hands and did not order the killing, his reputation has been badly tarnished.
He also has directed the Saudi war in Yemen, were the kingdom has been accused of breaching international human rights law and plunging millions into famine.
And questions were already raised about how ruthlessly he will crush opposition after he imprisoned Saudi royals in the country’s five star Ritz hotel last year.
He said he locked them up in a massive anti-corruption drove.
But his critics said that the move was a way for MBS to purge his political rivals.