Maureen Renfro's Blog: Saudi Arabia Carries Out First Beheading Under New King

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Saudi Arabia Carries Out First Beheading Under New King

Saudi Arabia on Monday executed a man convicted of raping several girls in a case that has captured the kingdom's attention and marks the first beheading carried out under the newly enthroned King Salman.

The Interior Ministry said Moussa al-Zahrani was executed in the city of Jiddah. The ministry statement, carried by the official Saudi Press Agency, said al-Zahrani was convicted of luring underage girls, intoxicating them, forcing them to watch pornographic videos and then physically and sexually assaulting them.His alleged victims were children assaulted in 2011 in a string of attacks in Jiddah.

The case has caused a stir on social media  which is unusual in Saudi Arabia for cases of violent crimes — in part because the father of 6,al-Zahrani claimed his innocence throughout the trial and two later appeals.

Last year, al-Zahrani appealed in a 20-minute video for Saudi King Abdullah, who died on Friday, to intervene. In the widely-viewed video, the 45-year-old Arabic teacher claimed he was framed by police and that a man , a neighbor of 10 years  who accused him of molesting his daughter was also a police investigator in the case

An Arabic hashtag on Twitter, 'We are all Moussa al-Zahrani' garnered thousands of comments by Saudis with conflicting opinions over the case.
Al-Zahrani's relatives have appeared on Saudi talk shows, saying the case was riddled with inconsistencies and that the judiciary did not weigh all the evidence. They claimed a medical report found the neighbour's ten-year-old daughter had not been assaulted and that several cases of assault against young girls took place in Jeddah while al-Zahrani was already jailed.

Speaking after the execution, his brother, Hassan al-Zahrani said hat his brother could not have committed the crimes he was convicted of.

Al-Zahrani was one of 11 people beheaded in Saudi Arabia so far this year. Saudi Arabia executed 87 people last year, up from 78 in 2013.
The execution of al-Zahrani follows the public beheading of a woman which was filmed in secret and leaked online. Layla bint Abdul Mutaleb Bassim, convicted of raping and murdering her six-year-old stepdaughter, was heard screaming her innocence in graphic footage of the execution.