Beheading of Lebanese for witchcraft
Published Date: April 03, 2010
BEIRUT: A Lebanese man condemned to death for witchcraft by a Saudi court was
not beheaded yesterday as had been expected, his lawyer said. Attorney May
Al-Khansa said Lebanon's justice minister told her that her client, Ali Sibat,
"would not be executed in Saudi Arabia Friday" -- the day executions are
typically carried out in the kingdom after noon prayers. She said it is still
unclear whether the beheading had been waived or only postponed.
There was no immediate comment from Saudi officials, and Lebanese Justice
Minister Ibrahim Najjar was not available for comment "Ali Sibat will stay
alive this Friday but we don't know what is going to happen the next day,
Saturday, Monday, any other day," Al-Khansa told The Associated Press. "What
the (justice) minister told us was not enough for the family, it is not enough
for me, because we really need Ali Sibat to be released." Sibat, a 49-year-old
father of five, made predictions on an Arab satellite
TV channel from his home in Beirut.
He was arrested by the Saudi religious police during his pilgrimage to the holy
city of Medina in May 2008 and sentenced to death last November for witchcraft.
The Saudi justice system, which is based on Islamic law, does not clearly
define the charge of witchcraft. Sibat is one of scores of people reported
arrested every year in the kingdom for practicing sorcery, witchcraft, black
magic and fortunetelling. The deeply religious authorities in Saudi consider
these practices polytheism. Sibat's wife, Samira, appealed to Saudi authorities
to release her husband.
He didn't do anything wrong ... he did not harm anyone," she said tearfully.
"If they want to do a humanitarian thing they will return him to his country."
The lawyer added she is slightly optimistic the postponement of the execution
meant Sibat would be released.
On Thursday, a dozen people rallied near the Saudi embassy in Beirut to protest
the impeding execution. New York-based Human Rights Watch said last year
Sibat's death sentence should be overturned and called on the Saudi government
to halt its "increasing use of charges of 'witchcraft,' crimes that are vaguely
defined and arbitrarily used." -
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