Capital Punishment and the Modern Age in Saudi Arabia

In Al-Monitor by yours truly:

Many commentators in the country usually avoid talking about death sentences issued by Saudi courts due to the fact that the judiciary, dominated by clerics, is very sensitive to criticism. These clerics say that they are applying God’s laws and consider criticism of their sentences as disrespectful. This sensitivity is heightened when criticism comes from international organizations, long viewed with suspicion by conservatives who accuse these organizations of pushing an agenda of Westernization that aims to alter the nature of society.

This attitude might change. Speaking on the same talk show, writer Jamal Khashoggi said it is about time that religious scholars and legal experts openly debate such sentences. “Was this the correct sentence?” he asked. “Was the legal procedure thorough?” Another guest of the show, Mohammed al-Owain, at first was reluctant to talk about the case of the seven men. But it seems that when he heard Khashoggi’s suggestion to discuss the case, he was encouraged to ask: “Is this the biggest theft we had ever seen? There have been people who committed worse crimes and they were not sentenced to death.” He added that while the judges have the last word, these are legitimate questions.

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