Of Reforms and Executions

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Saudi Arabia executed 81 individuals Saturday, the largest mass execution recorded in the kingdom’s modern history, the New York Post reported.

The individuals were accused of a variety of crimes, including murder, association with terrorist groups al Qaeda and Islamic State and support for Yemen’s Houthi rebels – Saudi Arabia is at war with the latter. The majority killed were Saudi but also Yemeni and one Syrian.

Saudi state media said the accused “were provided with the right to an attorney and were guaranteed their full rights under Saudi law during the judicial process.”

But critics and human rights organizations questioned the executions, saying some of the individuals had been tortured and were convicted in secret trials, according to the Associated Press.

Some critics also alleged that more than three dozen of the executed were Shiites, although Saudi officials did not note their faith. Shiites in the country’s east have long complained of being treated as second-class citizens.

Past executions of Shiites have sparked regional unrest: On Saturday, protests took place in neighboring Bahrain, a Shiite-majority kingdom.

The executions come even as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has moved to relax some of Saudi Arabia’s strict policies, such as allowing women to drive and reducing the power of the country’s notorious vice police.

Even so, human rights advocates have warned that the royal has also cracked down on dissidents and critics, and say he ordered the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The executions also took place ahead of a planned visit by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to discuss oil prices and his move to wean Britain off of Russian oil and gas, according to Sky News.

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