SAUDI ARABIA 'SORCERY' DEATH SENTENCE UPHELD
March 18, 2010: Amnesty International has called on the King of Saudi Arabia to halt the execution of a Lebanese national, whose death sentence for charges relating to "sorcery" was upheld by a court last week.
If the higher courts reject his appeal, 'Ali Hussain Sibat, a former television presenter for a Lebanese satellite TV station, who gave advice and predictions about the future, could be executed at any time.
'Ali Hussain Sibat was arrested by the Mutawa'een (religious police) on charges of "sorcery" in May 2008 while he was in Saudi Arabia to perform a form of Muslim pilgrimage, the 'umra.
His lawyer in Lebanon believes that 'Ali Hussain Sibat was arrested because members of the Mutawa'een had recognized him from the show, which was broadcast on the Sheherazade TV station.
After he was arrested, 'Ali Hussain Sibat's interrogators told him to write down what he did for a living, reassuring him that, if he did so, he would be allowed to go home after a few weeks.
This document was presented in court as a "confession" and used to convict him.
He was sentenced to death by a court in Madina on 9 November 2009 after secret court hearings where he had no legal representation or assistance.
In January 2010, the Court of Appeal in Makkah accepted an appeal against 'Ali Hussain Sibat's death sentence, on grounds that it was a premature verdict.
The Court of Appeal said that all allegations made against 'Ali Hussain Sibat had to be verified, and that if he had really committed the crime he should be asked to repent.
But on March 10, a court in Madina upheld the death sentence. The judges said that he deserved to be sentenced to death because he had practised âsorceryâ publicly for several years before millions of viewers and that his actions âmade him an infidelâ.
The court said also that there would be no way to verify that his repentance, if he should repent, would be sincere and that imposing the death sentence would deter other people from engaging in âsorceryâ at a time when, the court said, there is an increase in the number of âforeign magiciansâ entering Saudi Arabia.
The case has been sent back to the Court of Appeal in Makkah for approval of the death sentence. (Sources: Amnesty International, 18/03/2010)