Saudi Arabia executes man as annual toll hits 152

RIYADH (AFP) - A Saudi man convicted of murder was executed on Thursday (Dec 24), bringing the number of death sentences carried out this year in the conservative Muslim kingdom to 152.

Saad Ben Mohamed al-Othman was executed in the eastern city of Dammam after his conviction for shooting and murdering a fellow Saudi during a disagreement, the interior ministry said.

According to AFP tallies, his case brings to 152 the number of locals and foreigners put to death this year, against 87 for all of 2014.

Amnesty International says the number of executions in Saudi Arabia this year is the highest for two decades, since 192 people were put to death in 1995.

The toll has rarely exceeded 90 annually in recent years, it said.

Reasons for the surge in executions, all of which are reported by the official Saudi Press Agency, are unclear.

Saudi executions are usually carried out by beheading with a sword.

Rights experts have raised concerns about the fairness of trials in the kingdom, where the interior ministry says the death penalty is a deterrent to crime.

Amnesty says Saudi Arabia had the world's third-highest number of executions last year, after China and Iran.

Under the kingdom's strict Islamic legal code, murder, drug trafficking, armed robbery, rape and apostasy are all punishable by death.