Egyptian faces death over Saudi Koran desecration
RIYADH – An Egyptian living in Saudi Arabia has been sentenced to death for desecrating the Koran and renouncing Islam, Saudi newspapers and a rights activist said on Wednesday.
Okaz and al-Hayat newspapers said worshippers at a mosque in the desert town of Arar in north Saudi Arabia lodged a complaint with police saying the man, a pharmacist, had left copies of the Muslim holy book in the mosque washrooms.
They said a court found the man guilty on Tuesday of no longer being a Muslim because of his acts and 'violating the boundaries set by God'.
They said the man, whom they identified only as an Arab national, pleaded guilty. Saudi Arabia executes murderers, rapists and drug traffickers to death by public beheading, according to an austere version of Sunni Islam. Anyone found guilty of apostasy can also face death.
Ali al-Ahmed, a prominent Saudi rights activist who has followed the case, said the verdict raised questions about Saudi Arabia's justice system, which rights groups have criticised over a lack of legal representation and codified laws.
The man is Muslim and an Egyptian. I believe he was set up by extremists zealots,' said Ahmed, a critic of the Saudi government who is based at the Gulf Institute in Washington.
Saudi Arabia often responds to rights groups saying Islamic law specifies clear rights and obligations for Muslims and non-Muslim residents, who must abide by its laws and customs.
Four Sri Lankans were publicly beheaded then displayed on wooden crosses in February for armed robbery after what U.S.-based Human Rights Watch called a sham trial.