81 people convicted for different crimes are executed in Saudi Arabia

Riyadh's "Chop Chop Square," where public executions are carried out mtcurado/iStock

Saudi Arabia’s state-run Saudi Press Agency reported Saturday that the kingdom had carried out a mass execution of 81 people, The Hill reports.

(THE HILL).- According to The Hill and NPR, those executed — a group comprising 73 Saudis, seven Yemenis, and one Syrian — had been convicted of terrorism, murder, kidnapping, torture, rape, and weapons smuggling. Some were reportedly associated with al Qaeda, the Islamic State, and Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. It was the largest known mass execution in the country’s modern history.

NPR notes that while Saudi state media did not specify how the prisoners were executed, “death-row inmates” in Saudi Arabia “typically are beheaded” publicly. Reuters reports that since 2013, some Saudi executions have been carried out by firing squad.

Between 2015 and 2019, the kingdom averaged over 150 executions per year. In the same time period, the United States — which has almost ten times the population of Saudi Arabia — averaged less than 25 per year.

The kingdom carried out 27 executions in 2020, with the large drop-off due mostly to a moratorium on death sentences for drug crimes, and 67 in 2021, according to ABC News and the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights. Saturday’s mass execution killed more people in one day than were executed in either of the previous two years.

Axios reported last week that U.S. officials, having cut off the supply of Russian oil to the U.S., are considering a trip to Saudi Arabia to persuade its rulers to increase oil production. President Biden previously promised to turn the kingdom into a “pariah” due to its human rights violations, especially the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.