2016: Prince Turki bin Saud al-Kadir

Add comment October 18th, 2018 Headsman

On this date in 2016, Saudi Arabia had Prince Turki bin Saud al-Kabir beheaded: the first royal executed in the kingdom since 1975.

Prince Turki was convicted of shooting to death a friend named Adel bin Suleiman bin Abdulkareem Al-Muhaimeed during a 2012 brawl outside Riyadh.

Victims’ families have the right to pardon condemned criminals in Saudi Arabia, but Adel’s family refused repeated offers of diya (blood money) from the royal relatives up to the very last moment.

“The greatest thing is that the citizen sees the law applied to everyone, and that there are not big people and other small people,” Abdul-Rahman al-Lahim, a prominent Saudi lawyer, wrote on Twitter.

New York Times

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1996: Four militants, ahead of the Khobar Towers bombing

Add comment May 31st, 2017 Headsman

On this date in 1996, Saudi Arabia beheaded four Muslim militants for a car bomb attack on the Office of Program Management for the Saudi Arabian National Guard (OPM-SANG) military facility at Riyadh, killing five U.S. nationals and two Indians. All four prisoners were Sunni veterans of the Afghan War against the USSR, but they were beheaded in great haste, the Saudis having refused U.S. investigators permission to interview them.

The Kingdom’s Interior Ministry remarked at the time that the executions ought to assure that “such repulsive acts would not be repeated.”

This fanciful aspiration was conclusively nullified 25 days later when a huge truck bomb blew apart an apartment complex being used by the U.S. military, killing 19 U.S. Air Force servicemen along with a Saudi: the Khobar Towers bombing,* a bin Laden operation which might have opened an opportunity to prosecute the terrorist back before 9/11 was a twinkling in his salt-and-pepper beard, had the U.S. FBI not expediently attributed Khobar Towers to Iran-backed Shia militants.

* The 1996 truck bombing is not to be confused with the 2004 Khobar massacre.

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2013: A day in the death penalty around the Persian Gulf

2 comments April 1st, 2014 Headsman

A year ago today, three Persian Gulf states made the news for their April 1 executions.


Iraq four people on April 1, 2013 for terrorism-related offenses, including Munaf Abdul Rahim al-Rawi.

This onetime al-Qaeda figure once styled the “governor” of Baghdad was arrested in 2010 and actually cooperated with his captors, enabling U.S. and Iraqi officials to assassinate two other al-Qaeda leadersAbu Abdullah al-Rashid al-Baghdadi and the long-hunted Abu Ayyub al-Masri.

Munaf Abdul Rahim al-Rawi, in a 2010 interrogation

Such cooperation didn’t come with any assurance for safety of his own. After the operations his intelligence made possible, al-Rawi went on trial for his life. “One of the investigators said a death sentence is waiting for me,” he told a reporter nonchalantly. “I told him, ‘It is normal.'”

The hangings were Iraq’s 19th, 20th, 21st, and 22nd of the year.

Saudi Arabia

On April 1, 2013, Saudi Arabia beheaded Abdul Rahman Al Qah’tani in Riyadh. He “shot dead Saleh Moutared following a dispute.”

His was the 29th execution of the year.


Three men were hanged at the central jail in Sulaibiya, Kuwait, on April 1, 2013, the first executions in the gulf monarchy since May 2007.

  • Pakistani Parvez Ghulam, convicted of strangling a Kuwaiti couple in 2006.
  • Saudi Faisal Dhawi Al-Otaibi, who stabbed a friend to death.
  • A stateless Arab Bedouin, Dhaher (or Thaher) al-Oteibi, who killed his wife and children and claimed to be the long-awaited twelfth imam. One imagines there was conceivably some mental instability there.

Kuwait employed the gallows with some regularity, with 72 hangings from the death penalty’s introduction in 1964 up until 2007. At that point, it ceased carrying out executions without any public explanation, though it has never ceased handing down death sentences.

This date’s resumption of hangings did not play at subtlety: media invitations resulted in a harvest of gallows photography. (See below.)

“We have begun executing death sentences as criminality and brutality have increased in our community, and the court issues sentences for serious crimes on a daily basis,” Kuwaiti prosecutor Mohammad Al-Duaij said in announcing the hangings. “These executions should eliminate the increasing number of crimes and be a deterrent.”

He added, ominously, that the other 48 people then on Kuwaiti death row had had their cases submitted to the emir for approval.

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2009: Two thieves in Riyadh

Add comment March 27th, 2010 Headsman

Two men were beheaded in Riyadh on this date in 2009 for bizarrely causing a man’s death in an unarmed purse-snatching.

An Interior Ministry statement says Faisal bin Fahd and Bandar bin Abdullah first stole the Chinese man’s laptop bag while he was walking. When the man tried to catch up with them, he fell and died after hitting his head on the pavement.

“Chop-Chop Square” in Riyadh, the site of public executions.

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1975: Prince Faisal ibn Musa’id, royal assassin

2 comments June 18th, 2008 Headsman

On this date in 1975, a Saudi prince knelt in the public square before Riyadh’s Great Mosque, and 10,000 onlookers watched a golden-hilted sword took off his head for regicide.

It is little enough to say that, twelve weeks before, Faisal ibn Musa’id (transliterated several different ways — ibn or bin; Musa’id, Musaid, Musaed, or Musad) had approached his uncle King Faisal and shot him three times at point-blank range.

The reason(s) why a prince of the realm should do such an extraordinary thing are the real issue. They were murky then, and remain so to this day.

Certainly, when the monarch of the world’s leading oil producer is slain shortly after denying his product to the world’s leading oil consumer … well, speculation is bound to happen, even if the oil embargo was wrapped up a year before the murder. The assassin had studied (lackadaisically) in the United States a few years before, fueling hypotheses of a CIA hit, but there’s not even much of a satisfying just-so story to go with that, to say nothing of supporting evidence.

Whatever reasons there were seem to have been internal — a personal vendetta arising ultimately from the kingdom’s uneven confrontation with modernity so sensitively treated in Abdelrahman Munif’s Cities of Salt novels.*

The prince’s brother Khalid (or Khaled) had been slain by Saudi Arabia’s security forces in 1965 after demonstrating against television’s entry into the kingdom, an innovation authorized by King Faisal to the chagrin of strict Wahhabists. Khalid remains a martyr figure to Islamic fundamentalists to this day, and the conventional supposition is that Prince Faisal shot King Faisal in vengeance served 10 years cold; some accounts have him announcing as much at the moment of the murder.

(The conspiratorial palace intrigue version suspects Prince Fahd (or Faud) of using the aggrieved young man as his instrument in a coup; a defector from the Saudi diplomatic corps also inculpated Fahd along these lines. King Faisal’s death made Fahd the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia upon the accession of a politically disinterested brother; Fahd ascended the throne officially when that brother died in 1982 — the succession was passing brother-to-brother, rather than father-to-son — and had steered the ship of state for 30 years by the time of his own death in 2005.)

The official inquiry concluded, as such things do, that Faisal killed Faisal alone, and though early reports had the shooter mentally unbalanced, authorities eventually figured him sane enough for trial and the full measure of the law’s majesty.

Faisal ibn Musa’id remains the only royal prince judicially executed by the House of Saud.

* An assassination inspired by Faisal’s shows up in the second novel of the cycle, Trench.

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