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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Rights groups: Half of all executions by Saudis are foreigners

LONDON — At least 200 Syrians have reportedly been sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia.

Human rights groups said nearly half of all executions in Saudi Arabia during the past year were of foreigners. Some 158 people were executed in 2007.

On April 17, Saudi Arabia beheaded two Syrians in Tabouk prison. Both men, identified as Feras Al Aghbar and Feras Al Maktabi, were accused of drug offenses.

European human rights groups said 2,000 Syrians, including children, have been detained in Saudi Arabia, Middle East Newsline reported. The groups said about 10 percent of the detainees were awaiting execution in connection with illegal drug trafficking.

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"Prisoners are usually sentenced to death after receiving insufficient, sometimes even inexistent, legal representation and consular assistance," the International Federation for Human Rights, the Euro-Mediterranean Human rights Network, the World Organisation against Torture and the Committees for the Defence of Human Rights and Democratic Freedoms in Syria said in a statement on May 1.

In late April, two other alleged drug traffickers were also executed in Saudi Arabia. One of them was a Jordanian citizen of Syrian origin.

Damascus has accused Saudi Arabia of beheading Syrians to highlight poor diplomatic relations between the once close allies. Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef Bin Abdul Aziz said the royal family did not intervene in court decisions.

"Foreign nationals are often more exposed to miscarriages of justice and unfair trials than nationals," the statement by the human rights groups said. "As a result of their origins, they have little chance of escaping capital punishment."


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