Saudi Arabia has executed prisoners with no advance warning to the families of the victims, the BBC has reported. The kingdom has doubled the number of executions since 2015, and on 12 March 2022 alone killed 81 men in what has been described as the largest mass execution in the country's history.
Among those executed was Mustafa Al-Khayyat. The kingdom's high court sentenced him to death in 2011. Rights groups say that the sentence was based on confessions extracted under torture. His family were given no notice that he was about to be executed.
Moreover, Al-Khayyat's family still have no body to bury, and no grave to visit. The last they heard from him was a phone call from prison, and he signed off by telling his mother: "Alright, I have to go. I'm glad you're OK." Neither Al-Khayyat nor his family had any inclination that he would be executed a month later. He was one of the 81 men killed on that awful day in March last year.
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UK-based human rights group Reprieve documented 147 executions in Saudi Arabia last year, but says there could well have been more. It also says that the country has "disproportionately" used the death penalty against foreign nationals, including female domestic workers and low-level drug offenders.
"[Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman] has overseen vast numbers of executions and a brutal crackdown on people attending pro-democracy protests," Reprieve's Director Maya Foa told the BBC. She claimed that there is a regime of secrecy around the death penalty, explaining that in many of the cases Reprieve has looked at, nobody knew that the prisoners were even on death row.
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"Their family members did not know. So you had people who were arrested, tried, sentenced to death and then executed in secret," she added. Some families are said to have only discovered that a loved one had been executed via social media.