Saudi Arabia has beheaded three more of its nationals convicted of drug trafficking and murder, bringing to 88 the number of such executions in the country so far this year and surpassing the total for all of 2014.
The two convicts were beheaded in the northern region of Jawf on Tuesday, the Saudi Interior Ministry said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.
The men were found guilty of attempting to traffic drugs into the country.
Another Saudi national was separately beheaded in the southwestern region of Asir for murder.
The latest beheadings surpass the total for all of 2014. Last year, Saudi Arabia beheaded a total of 87 alleged convicts.
In recent months, a significant number of foreign nationals and workers have been beheaded in Saudi Arabia, triggering an outcry from human rights organizations.
Saudi Arabia also beheads the nationals of other countries. On April 16, Saudi authorities beheaded an Indonesian female domestic worker, just two days after executing another woman from the Southeast Asian country.
The incident sparked a diplomatic row between Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, with Jakarta summoning Riyadh’s ambassador over the case.
Also among those beheaded this year were at least 10 Pakistanis, eight Yemenis, and individuals from Syria, Jordan, Myanmar, the Philippines, India, Chad, Eritrea and Sudan.
A surge in executions began toward the end of the reign of King Abdullah, and further accelerated this year under his successor King Salman. On Jan 22, King Abdullah died at the age of 90; and his 79-year-old half-brother, Salman, succeeded him.
The UK-based rights group Amnesty International said in a report that court proceedings in Saudi Arabia “fall far short” of global norms of fairness.
“Trials in death penalty cases are often held in secret. Defendants are rarely allowed formal representation by lawyers,” the rights group said.
Scouting for prospective executioners
Saudi Arabia’s civil service advertised earlier this month for eight new “executors of retribution” as the number of beheadings soared across the country.
Beheadings are carried out in public using a sword.
Saudi authorities claim the executions show the country’s commitment to “maintaining security and realizing justice.”
Muslim clerics have also slammed Riyadh for indicting and then executing suspects without giving them a chance to defend themselves, describing the Saudi authorities as uncivilized.
Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Saudi law.