Saudi Arabia killed 81 alleged criminals Saturday, the largest mass execution recorded in the kingdom’s modern history.
Those who were killed had been convicted of a range of crimes, including murder, belonging to militant groups like al-Qaeda and backing Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
The executions were announced by the state-run Saudi Press Agency, which did not specify where they occurred, the significance of the timing, or the method of killing — although the kingdom typically beheads convicts.
Most of the slain prisoners were Saudis, the agency said. Seven Yemenis and one Syrian were also killed.
“The accused were provided with the right to an attorney and were guaranteed their full rights under Saudi law during the judicial process, which found them guilty of committing multiple heinous crimes that left a large number of civilians and law enforcement officers dead,” the Saudi Press Agency said.
The kingdom will continue to take a strict and unwavering stance against terrorism and extremist ideologies that threaten the stability of the entire world,” the report added.
Critics of King Salman and his son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said the capital punishment was unjust and secretive.
“The world should know by now that when Mohammed bin Salman promises reform, bloodshed is bound to follow,” said Soraya Bauwens, the deputy director of Reprieve, a London-based advocacy group.
Crown Prince Mohammed has relaxed some of Saudi Arabia’s strict policies — by allowing women to drive and stripping the country’s feared vice police of powers. However, he also ordered the dismemberment of Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi and killed hundreds of Yemen civilians in air strikes, according to the US.
Some activists said they believed more than three dozen of the executed prisoners were Shiites, who live in the kingdom’s east and have long complained of persecution. The faiths of the prisoners were not disclosed.
Protesters took to the streets in the Shiite majority kingdom of Bahrain Saturday night to demonstrate against the mass execution.