Saudi Arabia executes four for hashish possession

Map showing Najran in Saudi Arabia

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Authorities in Saudi Arabia have executed four members of the same extended family for drugs possession.

The two sets of brothers were killed on Monday in the south-eastern city of Najran after being convicted of receiving large quantities of hashish.

The case against them was reportedly based on confessions extracted under torture, Amnesty International said.

There had been a "disturbing" surge in the use of the death penalty in the kingdom, the human rights group added.

There have been 17 executions in the past two weeks, compared with 17 in the previous six months.

In 2013, the Saudi authorities executed at least 79 people, three of whom were under 18 at the time of the crimes for which they were condemned.

'Sinister'

The four executed men - Hadi al-Mutlaq, Awad al-Mutlaq, Mufrih al-Yami and Ali al-Yami - were arrested and detained by the interior ministry's General Directorate of Investigations on several occasions after their alleged offence in 2007, Amnesty said.

They were reportedly tortured during interrogation, including with beatings and sleep deprivation, in order to extract false confessions.

Amnesty said it had been contacted by their family on Thursday amid fears that their executions were imminent.

It sought further information on the case, but within hours was informed that the family had been warned by interior ministry officials to stop contacting the group.

"This apparent intimidation and surveillance of victims of human rights violations and activists adds another sinister layer to Saudi Arabia's use of the death penalty," said Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa programme deputy director Said Boumedouha.

"It is clear evidence that the authorities are willing to go to extreme lengths to prevent reports of gross human rights violations in the country from reaching the outside world."

The interior ministry said the men had been found guilty by three courts, including an appeals court.

The Saudi authorities have also repeatedly denied practising torture.

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