14 May 2010
Sudanese man facing execution in Saudi Arabia over ‘sorcery’ charges
Amnesty International today urged the Saudi Arabian authorities to intervene to halt the possibly imminent execution of a Sudanese man who was sentenced to death for “sorcery”.
Abdul Hamid Bin Hussain Bin Moustafa al-Fakki was sentenced to death by a Madina court on 27 March 2007, after he was accused of producing a spell that would lead to the reconciliation of his client’s divorced parents.
Very little is known about his trial proceedings as they were held in secret. Three years since he was sentenced to death, it is not known what stage his case is at or if his execution has been scheduled, but it is likely to be imminent given the time that has elapsed.
“‘Abdul Hamid al-Fakki appears to have been convicted solely for the peaceful exercise of his rights to freedom of expression and religion,” said Philip Luther, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa programme.
“We are calling on King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia not to let this or other executions go ahead.”
‘Abdul Hamid Bin Hussain Bin Moustafa al-Fakki was arrested on 8 December 2005 in the city of Madina by the Mutawa’een (religious police), officially called the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (CPVPV).
He was accused of practising sorcery, after being entrapped by the CPVPV. It is not clear why the authorities targeted him. A man working for the CPVPV approached ‘Abdul Hamid and asked him to produce a spell that would lead to the man’s father separating from his second wife and returning to his first wife, the man’s mother.
‘Abdul Hamid apparently accepted to do this in exchange for 6,000 Saudi Arabian riyals (approximately US$1,600).
He apparently took an advance of 2,000 riyals from the man, together with the names of his father and the father’s second wife, as well as the names of their mothers, and agreed to meet the man afterwards to deliver his work.
He went to the agreed meeting place and was seen by CPVPV agents getting into the man’s car. He delivered his work, consisting of nine pieces of paper with codes written on them with saffron, and received the rest of the money.
He was then arrested while in possession of bank notes whose serial numbers had been recorded by the CPVPV.
He was questioned and apparently beaten, and is believed to have confessed that he did carry out acts of sorcery in a bid to solve the family problems of the man who had approached him.
The crime of “sorcery” is not defined in Saudi Arabian law, and has been used to punish people for the legitimate exercise of their human rights, including the rights to freedom of conscience, religion, belief and expression.
The Saudi Arabian authorities arrested scores of people for “sorcery” in 2009, and have arrested over 20 more this year. Often arrests are carried out by the Mutawa’een, which uses entrapment to secure charges not only of “sorcery” but also of other offences such as
khilwa (being in the company of members of the opposite sex who are not close relatives).
The last known execution for “sorcery” was that of Egyptian national Mustafa Ibrahim, on 2 November 2007. He had been arrested in May 2007 in the town of ‘Arar, where he worked as a pharmacist, and accused of “apostasy” for having degraded a copy of the Qur’an by putting it in a toilet.
Saudi Arabia applies the death penalty for a wide range of offences, including some with no lethal consequences such as sorcery. Court proceedings fall far short of international standards for fair trial.
Defendants are rarely allowed formal representation by a lawyer, and in many cases are not informed of the progress of legal proceedings against them.
They may be convicted solely on the basis of confessions obtained under duress or deception. Prisoners in Saudi Arabia may be put to death without a scheduled date for execution being made known to them or their families. Since the beginning of 2010, at least 11 people have been executed.