SArabia executes 5 Saudis over murder of boy

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RIYADH, Oct 31 (Reuters) Saudi Arabia executed five Saudis today for the murder and sexual abuse of a boy, the largest single group to face the executioner's sword this year.

Executions total well over 120 so far in 2007 compared to a record of 182 recorded by New York-based Human Rights Watch in 1995.

The official Saudi Press Agency said the five were put to death in the Muslim holy city of Medina after being found guilty of kidnapping, abusing and decapitating a boy whose age and nationality were not given.

Executions for murder, rape, drug smuggling and armed robbery are usually carried out by public beheading with a sword.

Hands Off Cain (www.handsoffcain.info), a Rome-based anti-death penalty group, said there were 119 executions in the first six months of 2007. Only around 38 people were executed in 2006.

Saudi media has talked of fears of an increase in organised crime by expatriates who make up around one third of the kingdom's 24 million population.

Four Sri Lankans were beheaded in February for armed robbery, three Afghans were put to death in June for drug smuggling and three Bangladeshis were beheaded this week for armed robbery and rape.

Rights groups say the majority of those executed are Saudis and that sentences are arbitrary and defendants lack rights to legal representation.

Saudi authorities say they apply strict Islamic law which ensures full rights for Muslims and non-Muslims. Families of victims have the right to waive the death sentence and claim financial compensation instead.

REUTERS AM BD2107

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