Sunday 17 November 2019

First beheading for new Saudi king

The execution was controversial in Saudi Arabia
The execution was controversial in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has executed a man convicted of raping several girls in a case that has captured the kingdom's attention and marks the first beheading carried out under newly-enthroned King Salman.

Moussa al-Zahrani was executed in the city of Jeddah.

A statement from the Saudi interior ministry said al-Zahrani was convicted of luring under-age girls, intoxicating them, forcing them to watch pornographic videos and then physically and sexually assaulting them.

His alleged victims were children assaulted in 2011 in a string of attacks in Jeddah.

The case has caused a stir on social media - unusual in Saudi Arabia for cases of violent crimes - in part because al-Zahrani claimed his innocence throughout the trial and at two later appeals.

Last year, al-Zahrani appealed in a 20-minute video for Saudi King Abdullah, who died on Friday, to intervene.

In the widely-viewed video, the 45-year-old Arabic teacher claimed he was framed by police and that a man - a neighbour of 10 years - who accused him of molesting his daughter was also a police investigator in the case.

An Arabic hashtag on Twitter, "We are all Moussa al-Zahrani", garnered thousands of comments by Saudis, with conflicting opinions over the case.

Al-Zahrani's relatives appeared on Saudi talk shows, saying the case was riddled with inconsistencies and that the judiciary did not weigh all the evidence.

They claimed a medical report found the investigator's 10-year-old daughter had not been assaulted and that several cases of assault against young girls took place in Jeddah while al-Zahrani was already jailed.

His brother, Hassan al-Zahrani, said after the execution that his brother, a father of six, could not have committed the crimes he was convicted of.

Saudi Arabia, which has one of the highest execution rates in the world, follows a strict interpretation of Islamic law and applies the death penalty for crimes such as murder, rape and witchcraft.

PA Media

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