Riyadh (AFP) – Saudi Arabia executed three soldiers on Saturday for « high treason, » the Defense Ministry said, accusing them of collaborating with an unspecified enemy.
The executions come as a Saudi Arabia-led military campaign intensifies in neighboring Yemen and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, consolidates his hold in power.
The soldiers have been convicted of « crimes of high treason in cooperation with the enemy » in a manner that threatens the kingdom and its military interests, the ministry said in a statement from the official Saudi press agency.
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In the statement, the three soldiers – Mohammed bin Ahmed, Shaher bin Issa and Hamoud bin Ibrahim – were named without identifying which enemy they were accused of helping.
The ministry said the soldiers were executed in the military’s southern command near the border with Yemen, where Saudi Arabia is waging a six-year campaign against Houthi rebels.
Saudi Arabia, a Sunni power plant, views Shiite Iran as its main regional enemy and identifies the Tehran-aligned Houthis as a major security threat to the oil-rich kingdom.
Riyadh led a military coalition in Yemen in March 2015 to prop up the internationally recognized government, but it has been difficult to oust the Houthis.
The fighting over the most important Yemeni region, Marib, has intensified. 53 pro-government and Houthi rebel fighters have died in the past 24 hours, loyalist military officials said on Saturday.
The Houthis have been trying to capture oil-rich Marib, the last significant government territory in the north, since February.
The executions come as Prince Mohammed, the 35-year-old heir to the throne, tightens his control of power.
Prince Mohammed – the son of King Salman, the kingdom’s aging monarch – is already considered the country’s everyday ruler, who controls all important government levers from defense to economy.
He holds the title of Minister of Defense, while his younger brother Prince Khalid bin Salman is the deputy.
For the past three years, the Crown Prince has had critics and Rivals with the imprisonment of prominent members of the royal family, business tycoons, clergy and activists were sharply criticized.
In March last year, Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, a brother of King Salman, and the monarch’s nephew, Prince Mohammed bin, were met Nayef, arrested.
The kingdom has long been criticized for having one of the world’s highest execution rates and the fact that human rights defenders e in opaque judicial system.
Earlier this year, the government-backed Human Rights Commission (HRC) reported a sharp drop in executions in 2020 as the kingdom tries to defuse international criticism of its human rights record.
The HRC announced it had documented 27 executions in 2020, an 85 percent decrease from the previous year, partly due to a moratorium on the death penalty for drug offenses.
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