Saudi executes two Bahrainis on terrorism charges: state media

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Saudi Arabia has put to death two Bahrainis accused of plotting terrorist operations, state media said on Monday, raising the number of similar executions to nine this month.

The Bahraini nationals, identified as Jaafar Sultan and Sadiq Thamer, had been charged with “joining a terrorist cell led by a man wanted in Bahrain”, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said.

There was no immediate reaction from Bahraini authorities.

Since May 2 Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s most prolific users of the death penalty, has executed nine terrorism convicts, all but one in the eastern region where the Shiite minority is concentrated.

There have been more than 40 executions in Saudi Arabia so far this year, according to an AFP tally based on state media reports.

In 2022, Saudi Arabia executed 147 people — including 81 on a single day for terrorism-related offences, an event that sparked an international outcry.

The two Bahrainis “received training in camps belonging to terrorist entities aiming to destabilise the security of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain”, SPA added.

They were also accused of aiding “terrorists” in Saudi Arabia by smuggling explosive materials and supporting plans to carry out terrorist attacks in the kingdom and neighbouring Bahrain.

Bahrain’s main Shiite opposition group Al-Wefaq condemned the executions as a “crime”.

– ‘Torture-tainted confessions’ –

“These executions are arbitrary as the two men were subjected to coerced confessions under torture which were then used as evidence against them during an unfair trial, a practice prohibited under international law,” said Sayed Ahmed al-Wadaei, director at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy.

Riyadh “feels they are immune from any consequences” and Manama is “complicit” for failing to intervene on the men’s behalf, he added.

According to Amnesty International, Sultan and Thamer were arrested in Saudi Arabia on May 8, 2015. They were sentenced to death in October 2021 following “a deeply flawed trial based on torture-tainted confessions”, the rights group said last May.

In June 2022, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions sent a letter to Saudi authorities, urging them to “halt any possible step towards the execution” of the two men and “ensure that they are re-tried in conformity with international law and standards”.

More than 1,000 death sentences have been implemented since King Salman assumed power in 2015, according to a report published earlier this year by Reprieve and the European-Saudi Organisation for Human Rights.

Bahrain has also carried out executions in recent years for terrorism-related offences. Bahrain accuses Iran of supporting and harbouring terrorists — a charge Tehran denies.

Majority-Sunni Saudi Arabia sent troops to Sunni-led Bahrain to crack down on a mainly Shiite protest movement that kicked off in 2011, inspired by revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt.

The recent rise in executions in Saudi Arabia comes as the kingdom, known for its strict interpretation of Islamic sharia law, has been trying to soften its image through sweeping social and economic changes as part of its “Vision 2030” reform agenda.

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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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