1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Saudi Arabia executes 81 prisoners in a day

March 12, 2022

Saudi officials executed 81 people in one day for terror-related offenses, including seven Yemenis and a Syrian, according to state media. This is the largest mass execution in the nation's history.

The entrance to the general court in Riyadh
The men who were executed included Saudi, Yemeni and Syrian nationalsImage: AFP via Getty Images

Saudi media reported on Saturday that 81 men were executed in a single day, including members of al-Qaida, the "Islamic State" and Houthi groups, presumably rebels allied with Iran currently fighting in Yemen. This is believed to be the biggest mass execution in the history of the Arab country.

Officials said the prisoners, who were of Saudi, Syrian or Yemeni nationality, were plotting attacks and smuggling weapons into Saudi Arabia.

They were convicted on charges including terrorism and holding "deviant beliefs," according to state news agency SPA. Some had traveled to conflict zones to join "terrorist organizations," it added.

State television said the prisoners "followed the footsteps of Satan."

While Saudi Arabia is notorious for its strict penal code, mass executions of this scale are extremely rare. The kingdom beheaded 37 people by mass execution in 2019 and 47 in a similar event in January 2016. The latest wave of executions, however, surpasses even the aftermath of the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, when 63 people were beheaded in 1980.

Saudi Arabia to continue fighting 'against terrorism and extremist ideologies'

On Saturday, SPA cited a statement from the country's Interior Ministry as saying that some of the suspects were attempting to kill security officers and target police stations and convoys.

"The accused were provided with the right to an attorney and were guaranteed their full rights under Saudi law during the judicial process, which found them guilty of committing multiple heinous crimes that left a large number of civilians and law enforcement officers dead,'' the report said, adding the country would "continue to take a strict and unwavering stance against terrorism and extremist ideologies."

The news comes just a day after Saudi blogger Raif Badawi was freed from prison after 10 years, in what was seen as a signal of positive change in the conservative kingdom.

dj/mm (AFP, AP, Reuters)