Putting Saudi Arabia's execution of 47 people into historical context

Louis Dor
Saturday 02 January 2016 14:20

Saudi Arabia has executed 47 people convicted of terrorist offences, including prominent Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr.

Al-Nimr was an outspoken supporter of the protests in the east of the kingdom in 2011, and was arrested alongside his nephew Ali al-Nimr (17 at the time) in 2012, for charges of (among other things) seeking “foreign meddling” in the state.

Ali al-Nimr has not been named among the 47 executed, most of whom were detained after a series of al-Qaeda attacks between 2003 and 2006 in which hundreds were killed.

All but two of those executed were Saudi nationals, one was an Egyptian and one was a Chadian.

Iran, a country with Shia leadership, said Saudi Arabia would pay a "high price" for the execuutions, claiming that Riyadh: "supports terrorists... while executing and suppressing critics inside the country."

Saudi Arabia executed at least 157 people in 2015, which was the highest figure recorded by human rights groups for 20 years.

In 2014, the total number of executions recorded was 90.

However, as this Statista graph published in mid-2015 shows, Saudi Arabia is still some way behind China in terms of numbers of executions:


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