Beheading In Saudi Arabia
By: Elias Bejjani

April 01/10

My letter that was sent yesterday to the Honorable, Mr. Lawrence Cannon, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs regarding a desperate call to save the life of a Lebanese Citizen from being beheaded in Saudi Arabia
In my capacity as an active Canadian Lebanese human rights activist, journalist, political analyst and commentator, and founder of the Canadian Lebanese Human Rights Federation (CLHRF), I desperately and passionately call on you to personally intervene with the Saudi Arabian authorities in a bid to save Ali Hussain Sabat, a Lebanese national, who according to Associated French Press (AFP) has been sentenced death by beheading this week. With this plea, I join Amnesty International and millions of Canadians and people worldwide who call for respect for human rights, justice and mercy.
From Beirut, his lawyer, May el-Khansa, told AFP on Wednesday 31/03/10, that last night she received news through unofficial channels that Ali Sabat would be beheaded within 48 hours. She stated that his family and she have been contacting Lebanese officials, including President Michel Suleiman and Lebanon's ambassador to Saudi Arabia to appeal his case.
Ali Hussain Sabat, a Lebanese psychic who made predictions on a satellite TV channel from his home in Beirut, was arrested by religious police in the Saudi city of Medina during a pilgrimage there in May 2008 and then sentenced to death on November 9 of the same year.

Mr. Sabat, is 46-years-old, and at the time of his questionable and unlawful arrest was in Saudi Arabia to perform the minor Islamic pilgrimage known as Omra. He started out in the city of Mecca and then traveled to Medina to pray at the "Mosque of the Prophet". The case against him was brought after he gave advice and made predictions on Lebanese television.

Mr.Sabat appears to have been convicted solely for the peaceful exercise of his rightful freedom of expression.

We strongly believe that it is high time that our Canadian government which has extremely good relations with the Saudi ruling family intervenes on the basis of protecting human rights to save the Life of Mr. Sabat, and at the same time encourages the Saudi Arabian government to join the international trend towards a worldwide moratorium on executions.

It is worth mentioning that 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. Sabat is one of scores of people arrested every year in Saudi Arabia for practicing sorcery, witchcraft, black magic and fortune-telling.
These practices are considered to be a form of polytheism by the government of this deeply religious Muslim country. Meanwhile, Mr. Sabat did not break any Saudi law and the alleged crime was not committed on the Saudi soil, but in Lebanon and not via a Saudi media facility.

In Lebanon, psychics, fortune-tellers and astrologers are permitted to operate freely. Many have regular television and radio shows and some cafes even hire them to attract more customers. Every December 31, they jostle for air time to give their predictions for the New Year. Meanwhile, Mr. Sabat did not infringe on any Lebanese law
Saudi judges have harshly punished confessed ‘witches’ for what at worst appears to be fraud, but may well be harmless acts. Saudi judges should not have the power to end lives of persons at all, let alone those who have not physically harmed others.
We are fully convinced that Mr. Ali Saba is not a criminal, and that he did not commit any criminal act. It is very important that Canada, the well known champion in global human rights advocacy, steps in and saves the life of this one person.
Mr. Cannon, saving an innocent person from such a harsh and unlawful death is noble and humane act, especially that within few days we are going celebrate the death and the resurrection of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Matthew 5: 7& 9: "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God".

*Elias Bejjani
Canadian-Lebanese Human Rights activist, journalist and political commentator
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