03/19/2010, 00.00
SAUDI ARABIA
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Appeal to King Abdullah to stop execution of person for "sorcery"

The man, a Lebanese, he held an advice program with "predictions" on satellite TV in his country. Arrested during a pilgrimage and condemned for practicing sorcery before millions of people.

Riyadh (AsiaNews / Agencies) – An last minute appeal to the Saudi King Abdullah to stop the execution of a man sentenced to death for "sorcery" after the appeals court upheld the ruling last week.  

The man, Ali Hussain Sibat (pictured), is Lebanese and a former television presenter for a satellite TV station, Sheherazade TV, who gave advice and predictions about the future. He  was arrested by the Mutawa'een (religious police) on charges of "sorcery" in May 2008 while he was in Saudi Arabia to perform a Muslim pilgrimage.

According to Amnesty International 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 “sorcery” publicly for several years before millions of viewers and that his actions “made him an infidel”. 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 “sorcery” at a time when, the court said, there is an increase in the number of “foreign magicians” entering Saudi Arabia.

Amnesty International says the crime of "sorcery" is not defined in Saudi Arabian law but is used to punish people for the legitimate exercise of their human rights, including the rights to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, belief and expression.

The last known execution for sorcery in Saudi Arabia was carried out November 2, 2007 against a Egyptian pharmacist, Mustafa Ibrahim.

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