A criminal court in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Sunday sentenced a militant to death for his role in an attack on the US Consulate in Jeddah in 2004, in which five people died. The defendant, who was not named, is part of a 55-member terrorist cell with ties to al Qaeda that stormed the US Consulate [Arab News report] and held staff members at gunpoint. The court has sentenced 17 other defendants in the case to prison terms of up to 23 years. Saudi authorities announced [BBC report] that they will display the defendant's body after the execution, which is the most severe form of punishment allowed in the country. More than 30 additional defendants in the case will be sentenced later this week.
Saudi Arabia's justice system has drawn international criticism in recent years, especially with regard to its high number of executions. In 2008 Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] released a report [JURIST report] linking large number of executions in Saudi Arabia to flaws in the Saudi judicial system. In a report released earlier that year, AI found that Saudi Arabia executed more people per capita than any other nation [JURIST report]. According to that report, at least 1,252 people were put to death in 24 countries in 2008, with Saudi Arabia, China, Iran, Pakistan and the US accounting for the vast majority of the executions. In July 2008 Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] released a report criticizing a lack of legal protections [JURIST report] for the 1.5 million migrant domestic workers in Saudi Arabia. Among other proposed reforms, HRW called on the Saudi government to amend the 2005 Labor Law to cover migrant workers.