BEIRUT (AFP) – A Lebanese man sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia on charges of witchcraft is due to be beheaded this week, his lawyer said on Wednesday, urging officials and rights groups to intervene on his behalf.
“Last night we got news through unofficial channels that Ali Sabat would be beheaded within 48 hours,” May el-Khansa, Sabat’s attorney in Beirut told AFP.
“I have since been contacting Lebanese officials, including President Michel Sleiman and Lebanon’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia to appeal his case.”
Sabat was sentenced to death in November of last year by a Saudi court for practicing witchcraft.
He was arrested in May 2008 by the religious police in Medina, where he was on a pilgrimage before returning to his native Lebanon.
The case against him was brought after he gave advice and made predictions on Lebanese television.
Khansa said Lebanon’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia was in contact with Sabat and someone from the embassy had visited him on Wednesday in his jail cell.
“It is very important that we save the life of this one person,” she said. “He is not a criminal.”
She added that Sabat’s family was in shock and that his mother was seriously ill with doctors saying she could die anytime.
Rights groups have expressed concern about Sabat’s case and similar ones pending in Saudi Arabia and have accused Saudi courts of sanctioning a literal witch hunt by the religious police.
Saudi Arabia has no clear legal definition on the charge of witchcraft and judges are given discretionary power in determining what constitutes a crime and what sentence to impose.
In November 2007, Mustafa Ibrahim, an Egyptian working as a pharmacist in Saudi Arabia was beheaded after he was found guilty of sorcery.