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Saudi Arabia executes two soldiers convicted of 'treason'

Saudi Arabia has one of the highest execution rates in the world.

Saudi Arabia executed two Ministry of Defense personnel on Thursday for treason, though the details of the case are unknown.

The ministry said that Lt. Col. Majid bin Musa Awad al-Bali and Staff Sgt. Yusuf bin Rida Hassan al-Azuni were executed for “treason and failing to protect the national interest and the honor of military service.” The two were arrested and sentenced to death back in 2017, the ministry said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

The agency did not provide details on what the two men were accused of. Reuters noted that the kingdom as heavily engaged in the war in Yemen at the time, fighting the Iran-backed Houthi forces. Saudi Arabia also executed three soldiers in 2021 for treason and “cooperating with the enemy,” according to the outlet.

Why it matters: Saudi Arabia’s legal system and use of the death penalty have been widely criticized. In July, Saudi citizen Muhammad al-Ghamdi was sentenced to death for criticizing the Saudi royal family on Twitter. Human Rights Watch researcher Joey Shea called the decision a “terrifying new stage” in an August release from the New York-based organization.

The kingdom has also been criticized for the planned execution of three members of the Howeitat tribe who resisted forced evictions from their homes to make way for the futuristic megacity NEOM. The men were sentenced to death in August of last year. The United Nations urged Saudi authorities to halt the processes against the three men that month, according to a statement.

Know more: Saudi Arabia ranks number three globally in public executions. A total of 196 people were executed in 2022 in the kingdom, triple the number from 2021. It was the third most executions in the world last year, behind Iran and China, according to Amnesty International.

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