08 September 2010
Drop death sentences for men convicted of "sorcery" in Saudi Arabia

Amnesty International is calling on the Saudi Arabian King to take the opportunity of the end of Ramadan to commute the death sentences against two foreign natonals convicted of “sorcery”.

The King often issues pardons for prisoners during and just after Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting that is this year expected to end on 9 September. A moratorium on executions is observed throughout the month as well.

Amnesty International is also urging that ‘Ali Hussain Sibat, a Lebanese national, and ‘Abdul Hamid al-Fakki, a Sudanese national, be released immediately and unconditionally if they have been convicted solely for acts amounting to the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of religion.

‘Ali Hussain Sibat, who is 46 and has five children, was a presenter on a show on the Lebanese satellite TV station Sheherazade in which he gave advice and predictions about the future. He was arrested by the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (CPVPV), also known as the Mutawa’een (religious police), on charges of “sorcery” in May 2008 while he was in Saudi Arabia to perform a form of Muslim pilgrimage, the umra.

‘Ali Hussain Sibat was sentenced to death by a court in Madina on 9 November 2009 after secret court hearings where he had no legal representation or assistance.

In January, the Court of Appeal in Makkah upheld an appeal against his death sentence on the grounds that it was a premature verdict. The Court of Appeal said that all allegations made against ‘Ali Hussain Sibat had to be verified and that if he had really committed the crime he should be asked to repent.

He was tried again before the original court in Madina, which, on 10 March, upheld the death sentence . The judges in a statement said that he deserved to receive the death penalty because he had practised “sorcery” publicly for several years before millions of viewers and that his actions made him an infidel. The case is now again before the Court of Appeal in Makkah for a further review.

‘Abdul Hamid bin Hussain bin Moustafa al-Fakki, who is aged about 36, was arrested on 8 December 2005 in Madina by members of the Mutawa’een.

He was accused of practising sorcery, after a man working for the CPVPV entrapped him by asking him to produce a spell that would lead to the man’s father leaving his second wife. ‘Abdul Hamid al-Fakki apparently said he would do this in exchange for 6,000 Saudi Arabian riyals (approximately US$1,600). Following his arrest, he was questioned and apparently beaten and is believed to have confessed to carrying out acts of “sorcery”.

‘Abdul Hamid al-Fakki was sentenced to death for “sorcery” by the General Court in Madina on 27 March 2007 for sorcery. He had no legal assistance and very little is known about his trial proceedings as they were held in secret. He is still held in Madina Prison.

Image: ‘Ali Hussain Sibat © Private

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