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Amnesty International Urges Saudi Arabia to Halt Death Penalty

Amnesty International urged Saudi Arabia to halt the use of the death penalty after a “significant increase” in the number of executions this year.

At least 27 people have been executed in the kingdom this year, the same number as for all of 2010, Amnesty said in a statement on its website yesterday. Fifteen people were executed in May alone, the London-based rights group said.

Saudi Arabia, a G-20 member, is an absolute monarchy that adheres to a strict version of Islam. Homosexuality is illegal and the kingdom’s courts often sentence people to death by public beheading for crimes such as rape, murder and drug trafficking.

“The Saudi Arabian authorities must halt this disturbing pattern,” Philip Luther, Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in the statement. “Amnesty International is aware of over 100 prisoners, many of whom are foreign nationals, currently on death row.”

The number of executions had been declining, dropping to at least 69 people in 2009 from about 102 people the year before and 158 people in 2007, according to Amnesty.

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