Saudi man executed for 'witchcraft and sorcery'

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A Saudi man has been beheaded on charges of sorcery and witchcraft, the state news agency SPA says.

The man, Muree bin Ali bin Issa al-Asiri, was found in possession of books and talismans, SPA said. He had also admitted adultery with two women, it said.

The execution took place in the southern Najran province, SPA reported.

Human rights groups have repeatedly condemned executions for witchcraft in Saudi Arabia.

Last year, there were reports of at least two people being executed for sorcery.

Mr Asiri was beheaded after his sentence was upheld by the country's highest courts, the Saudi news agency website said.

No details were given of what he was found guilty of beyond the charges of witchcraft and sorcery.

Amnesty International says the country does not formally classify sorcery as a capital offence.

But the BBC's Arab Affairs Editor, Sebastian Usher, says there is a very strong prohibition of some practices from the country's powerful conservative religious leaders.

Some, he explains, have repeatedly called for the strongest possible punishments against anyone suspected of sorcery - whether they are fortune tellers or faith healers.

In 2010, a Lebanese television presenter of a popular fortune-telling programme was arrested while on pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.

Though sentenced to death, after pressure from his government and human rights groups, he was freed by the Saudi Supreme Court, which found that he had not harmed anyone.

More recent cases of death on charges of sorcery include that of a Saudi woman, executed for committing sorcery and witchcraft in December, in the northern province of Jawf, and that of a Sudanese man executed in September, despite calls led by Amnesty International for his release.

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