A Saudi firing squad executed in public seven men convicted of armed robbery despite last-minute appeals by rights groups that their lives be spared as they committed the crimes as juveniles eight years ago.
The condemned men were convicted of “forming a gang that carried out several armed robberies and thefts with the help of other people,” said the interior ministry in a statement published by the official SPA news agency.
They were executed “as a punishment to them and to deter others” from carrying out similar crimes, said SPA, adding their fellow robbers had been sentenced to various jail terms and lashes.
A witness said “the execution was “implemented a while ago at a public square in Abha,” saying the defendants were “shot dead” and not beheaded as is customary in the kingdom.
The announcement came soon after Amnesty released a statement renewing calls on the Saudi authorities to halt the executions.
They “looked set to be shot on Wednesday morning,” said Amnesty, which described the executions as “sheer brutality.”
The seven men — Sarhan Al Mashaikh, Saeed Al Zahrani, Ali Al Shahri, Nasser Al Qahtani, Saeed Al Shahrani, Abdulaziz Al Amri, and Ali Al Qahtani — were charged with organising a criminal group, armed robbery, and raiding jewellery stores in 2005, and sentenced to death in 2009.
Rights groups had protested that the men — now aged between 20 and 24 according to news site sabq.org — were condemned for crimes committed as juveniles.
“It is a bloody day when a government executes seven people on the grounds of ‘confessions’ obtained under torture,” said Amnesty’s Philip Luther.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved