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Tuesday, June 18
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Lawyer: Saudi could behead man for witchcraft

The lawyer of a Lebanese TV psychic who was convicted in Saudi Arabia for witchcraft said Thursday her client could be beheaded this week and urged Lebanese and Saudi leaders to help spare his life.

Attorney May al-Khansa said she learned from a judicial source that Ali Sibat is to be beheaded Friday, but she does not have any official confirmation of this. Saudi judicial officials could not be reached for comment.

A Lebanese official said Beirut has received no word from its embassy in Riyadh about Sibat’s possible execution.

The Saudi justice system, which is based on Islamic law, does not clearly define the charge of witchcraft.

Sibat is one of scores of people reported arrested every year in the kingdom for practicing sorcery, witchcraft, black magic and fortune-telling.

These practices are considered polytheism by the government in Saudi Arabia, a deeply religious Muslim country.

Al-Khansa said she has called upon Saudi King Abdullah to pardon Sibat, a 49-year-old father of five.

She added that Sibat did not make predictions in Saudi Arabia and was neither a Saudi citizen nor a resident and therefore should have been deported rather than tried there.

Sibat made predictions on an Arab satellite TV channel from his home in Beirut.
He was arrested by the Saudi religious police during his pilgrimage to the holy city of Medina in May 2008 and sentenced to death last November.

“Ali is not a criminal. He did not commit a crime or do anything disgraceful,” al-Khansa said.

She added that Sibat’s mother’s health has been deteriorating since her son was sentenced to death.

Human Rights Watch said last year that Sibat’s death sentence should be overturned. It also called on the Saudi government to halt “its increasing use of charges of ‘witchcraft,’ crimes that are vaguely defined and arbitrarily used.”

Last year, the rights group presented a series of cases in the kingdom, including that of Saudi woman Fawza Falih, who was sentenced to death by beheading in 2006 for the alleged crimes of “witchcraft, recourse to jinn (supernatural beings)” and animal sacrifice.

On November 2, 2007, Mustafa Ibrahim, an Egyptian pharmacist, was executed for sorcery in the Saudi capital after he was found guilty of having tried “through sorcery” to separate a married couple, Human Rights Watch said.

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