Eleven women beheaded under Islamic 'justice'

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The Independent Online

Middle East Correspondent

Saudi Arabia's system of Islamic "justice" has notched up a new tally of victims: 11 women publicly beheaded in less than three years. The names of the women subjected to decapitation in public squares - and details of their executions after trials that were sometimes little more than a legal charade - are revealed for the first time today in the Independent.

Two were a mother and daughter, killed together by a Saudi executioner who cut off their heads with a sword in the Saudi port city of Dhahran less than two months ago.

Eight of the 11 women were convicted of murder after secret trials, three others for drug-related offences. Six were Saudi citizens. A Christian Filipina maid was beheaded in Dammam for killing her employer, his wife and son, after alleging the son had tried to rape her. In the emirate of Ras al-Khaymah, a Sri Lankan maid was shot by firing squad in April after allegedly killing her employer's child. She was 19.

Since January, 176 men have also been beheaded in Saudi Arabia. During the last three years, hundreds of women - most of them foreign workers from the Philippines and Sri Lanka - have been lashed in Arab Gulf prisons, usually for alleged sexual misdemeanours; dozens have fled t after claiming they had been beaten or sexually abused by employers. Their plight is causing growing horror among human rights organisations, which have been told by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states that punishments are an internal affair, inflicted according to the Islamic laws.

In the emirate of Abu Dhabi yesterday, the parents of Sarah Balabagan,16, who is facing a death sentence for allegedly killing her employer when she was only 14, greeted their daughter in prison at al-Ain - but with no indication that an appeal court hearing today will reverse her sentence. She says that the man she killed had tried to rape her, but opinion in the Arab Gulf is against her.

A news magazine in the United Arab Emirates has called Filipina maids a "minefield" and referred to the convicted girl as a justly sentenced "killer". A Saudi intellectual has described the beheading of women as part of new security measures that reflect the fear of the Saudi royal family that instability can endanger their regime.

West shamed, page 11

Leading article, page 18

Condemned maid, Section 2