03/13/2023, 14.20
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Jordanian man executed for drug trafficking based on forced confession

Hussein Abu al-Khair, a father of eight, was arrested in 2014 for amphetamine smuggling. His family was not informed of his execution. NGOs fought for his release after a "grossly unfair" trial. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's reformist policies have been overshadowed by the kingdom’s use of the death penalty.


Riyadh (AsiaNews) – Saudi Arabia has executed a Jordanian man, sentenced to death for alleged drug trafficking whose family say he was tortured into confessing.

Hussein Abu al-Khair, a 57-year-old father of eight who worked as a chauffeur for a wealthy businessman, is the latest victim of Saudi Arabia’s penchant for the death penalty, in an affair that saw several international NGOs fight for his release.

After he was arrested in 2014 after crossing the border between Jordan and Saudi Arabia for allegedly smuggling amphetamines, he was tried, convicted and sentenced to death in what various NGOs deemed a "grossly unfair" trial, including Amnesty International.

In a telephone conversation with his sister Zeinab Abul Al-Khair, he said that he had been strung up by his feet and brutally beaten. “He never imagined a forced confession would be allowed in his trial," she explained.

Abu al-Khair’s execution casts further doubts on Saudi Arabia's progress and its royal family’s willingness to expand freedoms and rights.

In fact, last November Saudi authorities announced the end of the moratorium on the death penalty for crimes related to drug trafficking or drug use. Following this, at least 17 men were executed for drug offences in just two weeks.

For the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Abu al-Khair's imprisonment was without legal basis. Late last year, the UN Human Rights Office called for his release, saying the death penalty for drug offences is contrary to international law.

Campaign group Reprieve noted that Saudi authorities failed to inform the Jordanian man’s family of the impending execution, denying them the right to say farewell.

In the meantime, “Rather than condemn the Crown Prince, world leaders queued up to shake his bloodstained hands. Today's atrocity and others like it is the inevitable result. When partners signal that the Saudi regime can kill without consequences, you can be sure it will,” said Reprieve's director, Maya Foa.

For Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry, Hussein Abu al-Khair’s execution reiterated the kingdom’s commitment “to combat drugs of all kinds because of the severe harm they cause to the individual and society”.

Since he came to power, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman[*] has been celebrated for his liberal, modern and “reformist” vision of the kingdom; however, during this period, the number of executions has almost doubled.

In a report released last month, Reprieve highlights the widespread use of the death penalty and mass executions in Saudi Arabia.

Since 2015, more than a thousand people have been executed after the rise of the kingdom’s second most powerful man after King Salman.

[*] In addition to being heir to the Saudi crown, Mohammed bin Salman also serves as the country’s prime minister.

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