The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia beheaded 37 citizens who were suspected of being involved in terrorist- related crimes.
Dissident Ali Ahmed, who runs the Institute for Gulf Affairs in Washington, D.C., identified 34 of those executed as Shiites based on the names announced by the Interior Ministry.
The Interior Ministry said the body of one of the men — Khaled bin Abdel Karim al-Tuwaijri — was publicly pinned to a pole for several hours to serve as a warning to others.
The mass execution, which is the largest since January 2016, sparked controversies.
Ahmed criticized Tuesday’s mass execution and expressed that it was used to send a political message to Iran:
“This is political. They didn’t have to execute these people, but it’s important for them to ride the American anti-Iranian wave.”
Ahmed said among those executed was Shiite religious leader Sheik Mohammed al-Attiyah. One of the charges against him was that he tried to form a sectarian group in the western city of Jidda:
“The sheik publicly spoke of the need to work closely with Saudi Arabia’s Sunni majority and would lead small prayer groups among Shiites.”
According to Human Rights Watch, at least 33 of those executed belonged to Saudi Arabia’s Shiite minority.
The rights group said the convictions were based on “sham mass trials” where confessions were allegedly extracted through torture.
“Saudi authorities will inevitably characterize those executed as terrorists… but the reality is that Saudi courts are largely devoid of any due process, and many of those executed were condemned based solely on confessions they credibly say were coerced,” said HRW’s deputy Middle East director Michael Page.
“Executing prisoners en masse shows that the current Saudi leadership has little interest in improving the country’s dismal human rights record.”
U.N. rights chief Michelle Bachelet condemned Riyadh’s execution, saying “it was particularly abhorrent that at least three of those killed were minors at the time of their sentencing.”
Rights group Amnesty International denounced the executions:
“The executions were yet another gruesome indication of how the death penalty is being used as a political tool to crush dissent from within the Shiite minority.”