Three soldiers executed in Saudi Arabia for ‘high treason’

Saudi Arabia faces jihadist and Iranian security threats.

Saturday 10/04/2021
Saudi soldiers parade during Saudi National Day celebrations in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (AFP)
Saudi soldiers parade during Saudi National Day celebrations in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (AFP)

RIYADH - Saudi Arabia on Saturday executed three soldiers for “high treason”, the defence ministry said.

The soldiers were found guilty of “the crime of high treason in cooperation with the enemy” in a way that threatens the kingdom and its military interests, the ministry said in a statement published by the official Saudi Press Agency.

The statement named the three soldiers — Mohammed bin Ahmed, Shaher bin Issa and Hamoud bin Ibrahim.

Riyadh did not specify the exact offences attributed to the soldiers or if the three had links to extremist groups.

Saudi Arabia faces continued security threats from groups affiliated with the “Islamic State” (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda, that are active in the Arabia Peninsula.

It also faces destabilisation moves by Iran that is seen as targeting Saudi Arabia directly and through its Yemeni proxies, the Houthis.

Riyadh has led a military coalition into Yemen in March 2015 to prop up the internationally recognised government, but it has struggled to oust the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

It has also faced a surge in missile and drone attacks against the kingdom.

Fighting has intensified for the key Yemeni region of Marib, with 53 pro-government and Houthi rebel fighters dead in the past 24 hours, loyalist military officials said Saturday.

The Houthis have been trying to seize oil-rich Marib, the government’s last significant pocket of territory in the north, since February.

Saudi Arabia has dramatically reduced the number of people put to death last year, following changes halting executions for non-violent drug-related crimes, according to the government’s tally and independent observers.

The Saudi government’s Human Rights Commission said this year it documented 27 executions in 2020. That’s compared to an all-time high of 184 executions the year before as documented by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The change represents an 85% reduction in the number of people put to death last year, compared to 2019.

“The sharp decrease was brought about in part by a moratorium on death penalties for drug-related offenses,” the Saudi rights commission said.

The AP previously reported that Saudi Arabia last year also ordered an end to the death penalty for crimes committed by minors and ordered judges to end the controversial practice of public flogging, replacing it with jail time, fines or community service.

The force behind these changes is 34-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has the backing of his father, King Salman. In an effort to modernize the country, attract foreign investment and revamp the economy.