Saudi Arabia Executes 37 in One Day for Terrorism

ANKARA, Turkey — Saudi Arabia executed 37 people on Tuesday after they had been sentenced to death for terrorism-related crimes.

The executions were announced in a statement on the state-run news agency, which said the men had been put to death for “their adoption of extremist, terrorist ideology and forming terrorist cells to corrupt and disturb security, spread chaos and cause sectarian discord.”

Some of the men had been involved in bomb attacks on security headquarters that had killed officers, the agency said.

The statement also accused them of “cooperating with hostile parties in a way that damaged the high interests of the homeland.”

It listed the 37 men by name but provided little information about what crimes they had committed or when. But many of them were members of the kingdom’s Shiite Muslim minority, which is concentrated in the east of the country and has often had a contentious, sometimes violent relationship with the Saudi authorities.

Saudi Arabia has also struggled in recent years with domestic supporters of Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, who have carried out a number of deadly attacks in the kingdom.

On Monday, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for an attack on a security building in the town of Zulfi, northwest of Riyadh, the capital. All four militants were killed, and three security officers were wounded in the attack, the Saudi authorities said.

Most executions in Saudi Arabia are done by beheading in a public square. The executions on Tuesday were carried out in cities around the kingdom, the statement said, and one of the condemned was also subjected to crucifixion, which in Saudi Arabia means leaving the body on display after the person has been killed.

Human rights organizations often criticize the Saudi judicial system for lacking transparency and convicting suspects based on secret evidence or confessions given under duress.

The mass execution is the largest in Saudi Arabia since January 2016, when 47 men were executed in a single day, including an outspoken Shiite cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.

Sheikh Nimr’s execution caused protests in Iran, during which rioters stormed Saudi diplomatic buildings, leading to a breakdown in relations between the two countries.

None of the men executed on Tuesday were as prominent as Sheikh Nimr, and it was not immediately clear whether there would be a reaction to the executions, either inside Saudi Arabia or abroad.

The executions on Tuesday brought the number of such punishments in Saudi Arabia this year to 103, according to a count by Human Rights Watch.

The kingdom executed 148 people in 2018.

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