11/27/2015, 00.00
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Riyadh plans mass execution of 55 people in one day

These include those convicted of crimes related to terrorism and internal revolt. The executions are "imminent". In 2015 151 people executed, the highest number since 1995. Activists: the government uses the death sentences to solve the problem of internal dissidence.

Riyadh (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Human rights activists and organizations are sounding the alarm following the news that Saudi Arabia is planning a mass execution of dozens of people in a single day .

According to the newspaper Okaz, quoted by the BBC, at least 55 people will be executed for "crimes of terrorism"; also the website of the newspaper al-Riyadh published an article – later removed - that 52 executions were "imminent".

Those waiting on death row include some Shiites, who participated in anti-government protests in the past. Human rights activists point to the increasing number of death sentences carried out this year in the kingdom; warning that the news of a possible mass execution is to be taken very carefully and seriously.

In 2015 at least 151 people were executed, the highest number since 1995. Last year the figure had stood at 90.

According to reports from the Saudi newspaper, among those who will be executed are "al Qaeda terrorists" and six people in the area of Awamiya, a city of Qatif region, an area rich in oil in the eastern province. The latter were convicted of rebellion, attacks on security personnel and interference in neighboring Bahrain

Human Rights experts and organizations stress that the Saudi government uses charges of terrorism and rebellion, as in the case of six young activists Awamiya, to "stiffle political dissent" and internal problems with minorities. In recent days, the mothers of five of the six young people in the city waiting to be executed, wrote a letter to King Salman, in which they ask the monarch to pardon their children. 

Various NGOs have also asked the government to stop the executions and to remove the veil of secrecy and mystery that covers cases of death sentences.

For years the main human rights organizations and many Western governments have been fighting to force Saudi Arabia (Sunni Wahhabi) into ensuring  fairer trials and more humane executions. Saudi Arabia - in which there is a strict observance of sharia, Islamic law - is the only country in the world where the death penalty can be executed by beheading in the public square.

Capital punishment in the kingdom is dealt out to the perpetrators of murder, armed robbery, rape and drug trafficking, but also for witchcraft and sodomy. No less cruel are the sentences for minor crimes such as theft and the crime of opinion, which in addition to imprisonment, involves the cutting of the hand or foot and public flogging.

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