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Saudi Arabia sentences Riyadh concert stabber to death

December 29, 2019 at 12:56 pm

Saudi women attend a concert by Egyptian pop sensation Tamer Hosny in Jeddah on 30 March 2018 [AMER HILABI/AFP/Getty Images]

A Saudi Arabian court on Sunday sentenced to death a man accused of stabbing three performers at a live show in the capital Riyadh in November, state television said, according to a report by Reuters.

Another man on trial for the same incident was sentenced to 12 and a half years in prison, al-Ekhbariya television said.

The November 11 attack occurred at King Abdullah Park, one of several venues hosting a months-long entertainment festival as part of government efforts to open up Saudi society and diversify its economy away from oil.

The assailant had previously been identified as a 33-year-old Yemeni resident in reports broadcast by Ekhbariya.

The victims of the attack, two men and a woman, sustained “superficial wounds” and were stabilised after receiving medical care, state media reported at the time.

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The motive for the attack has not yet been revealed, but it is strongly suspected that it is the start of a backlash against Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s recent social reforms as part of the “modernisation” of the kingdom and the opening up of the country to foreign investment and tourists visiting for purposes other than pilgrimage and religious reasons.

Amongst the laws that have been enforced include those which will allow foreign unmarried couples to stay in hotel rooms together, free-mixing in public areas now being permitted, the abaya no longer having to be worn in public, and the increase in concerts and entertainment events throughout the kingdom. The move has upset many among its conservative society and the scholarly class, with arrests of critics – even scholars – who speak out against the changes.

As the attacker is said to be Yemen, another suspected motive is revenge for Saudi Arabia’s ongoing war in Yemen against the Houthi militias and the resulting damage to the country and its inhabitants.