SAUDI ARABIA: A barber spared beheading


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The king spared the barber.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has rescinded the death penalty against a Turkish barber convicted of “cursing” the name of God.

Sabri Bogday, who cuts hair in the port of Jidda, was sentenced to beheading for swearing during an argument with his neighbor, a tailor.


Turkish media reported that Turkey’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia informed Bogday’s family that he had been spared.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul had asked the king to set aside the verdict.

After Bogday’s arrest, the Arab News in Saudi Arabia quoted a lawyer who described how the court viewed using God’s name in vain:

“Some judges consider it heresy and infidelity, and say that the accused cannot repent and so faces the death penalty. Others consider the statement to be disbelief, thus allow the accused to retract what he has said and repent and then set him free. ... Sentences in these cases are limited and considered rare, because the judgment is not based on something that is written.”

Saudi Arabia’s rigid Islamic laws carry the death penalty for crimes including murder, rape, drug trafficking, heresy and blasphemy.

A recent report by Amnesty International estimated that 71 people had been executed in the kingdom during the first eight months of 2008. More than half were foreigners.

-- Jeffrey Fleishman in Cairo

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