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Saudi execution toll highest in two decades, according to Amnesty International report

Saudi Arabia has executed at least 151 people so far this year, the highest number since 1995. Rights group Amnesty International says it ranks after China and Iran for the number of executions carried out.

According to an

Amnesty International report released on Monday

Saudi Arabia is one of the top five countries for executing people. It ranked third in the world in 2014, after China and Iran and ahead of Iraq and the United States, according to Amnesty International figures.

"So far in 2015, on average, one person has been executed every other day," the Amnesty report stated. The recent annual figure rarely exceeded 90 executions.

The latest execution to take place in the Gulf state was on Monday. It involved a Saudi national convicted of killing a policeman who had tried to arrest him for smuggling drugs, according to the interior ministry.

Out of the 151 people executed so far this year in Saudi Arabia, 71

were foreign nationals,

Amnesty said. It added that foreigners, who are mostly guest workers from poor countries, are particularly vulnerable as they typically do not understand the Arabic language and are denied adequate translation in court.

"The

use of the death penalty

is abhorrent in any circumstance but it is especially alarming that the Saudi Arabian authorities continue to use it in violation of international human rights law and standards, on such a wide scale, and after trials which are grossly unfair and sometimes politically motivated," Amnesty's Middle East and Northern Africa region program deputy director, James Lynch said.

'Appalling abuse of power'

Saudi executions are usually carried out by beheading with a sword. "The use of the threat of executions as a tool to punish and intimidate political dissidents by the Saudi Arabian authorities is an appalling abuse of power," Lynch added.

Last month Saudi Arabia's Supreme Court

confirmed the death sentence

for the popular Shiite leader Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr on "sedition" charges. His nephew, Ali al-Nimr, was also sentenced to death along with two other activists who were minors when they were arrested over anti-government protests that erupted in the wake of the Arab Spring.

Social media users around the world were

calling on Saudi King Salman

not to execute the young Shiite Muslim Nimr al-Nimr, stressing that he was a teenager when he was arrested.

Saudi Arabia says it provides fair trials for all defendants. Supporters of the Saudi death penalty say that the beheadings are at least as humane as lethal injections used in the United States.

dr/jm (AFP, Reuters)

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