13:35 GMT25 October 2020
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    With 43 people already executed in Saudi Arabia in the first few months of 2019, the kingdom is well on its way to setting a new record for the greatest number of executions in a year, according to reports.

    Of the 43 executed so far, 21 were beheaded for drug offenses, while the remainder were put to death for crimes including treason, renouncing Islam, adultery, murder, burglary, rape, espionage and terrorism, according to the Gulf Times.

    Should the Riyadh maintain its present rate, experts have projected that a whopping 172 executions will have taken place by the end of 2019 — the highest total recorded in Saudi Arabia since human rights groups first began tracking the data in the early 2000s.

    ​According to Business Insider, the 43 recorded executions in 2019 took place between January 1 and March 13, with the most recent beheading involving a Syrian man who was condemned to death for smuggling amphetamine pills.

    Analysis published in 2018 by British watchdog Reprieve shows that since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) was appointed to his new role in June 2017, the rate of executions has doubled in the country.

    "In the eight months after Mohammed bin Salman was appointed Crown Prince (July 2017 — February 2018 inclusive) there have been 133 executions in Saudi Arabia, compared with 67 in the eight months preceding (October 2016 — May 2017 inclusive)," the report states.

    "If this rate continues (on average just over 16 per month), 2018 could see 200 executions, the highest number of executions ever recorded in Saudi Arabia in one year."

    Data provided by Cornell Law School's Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide estimates that Saudi Arabia held 150 executions in 2018, just 50 shy of Reprieve's projected record. More than half of those executions resulted from drug smuggling convictions. The remainder were for murder.

    "Capital punishment — including public executions — has been a regular feature of life in Saudi Arabia for as long as I can remember," Thomas Lippman, an author and journalist specializing in the Middle East and currently with the Middle East Institute, told Sputnik on Tuesday. "Those put to death, however, are rarely Saudi citizens. They are usually foreign workers accused of trafficking in drugs or alcohol."

    According to the Gulf Times, nearly half of the individuals killed since MBS took up the mantle of crown prince were "poor migrants, mostly from South Asia, who had been coerced into smuggling drugs."

    Although reports have suggested that Saudi Arabia has executed more than 600 individuals since 2014, with the majority of those condemned being foreign nationals, the Middle Eastern country trails behind China and Iran in number of executions, a 2017 Amnesty International report revealed.

    The Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide's data suggests that so far, "at least 23" individuals have been executed in Iran in 2019. As for China, the organization did not offer a number, instead indicating that "it is estimated that China executes more than the rest of the world together."

    "The number of executions is a state secret, and the executions reported in the media are a fraction of those that are carried out," the Center states. The last figure offered up by the organization is from 2015, when it noted that "approximately 2,400" individuals were killed, but that those only represent a "tiny proportion of the actual number of executions."


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