Saudi Arabia has executed three soldiers convicted of “high treason” and “cooperating with the enemy”, with a statement from the kingdom’s defence ministry saying the trio was sentenced to death by a specialist court after a fair trial.
The state-run Saudi Press Agency identified the men as soldiers working in the defence ministry. It did not elaborate on how the men aided the kingdom’s enemies.
The ministry named the three soldiers – Mohammed bin Ahmed, Shaher bin Issa and Hamoud bin Ibrahim – without identifying which “enemy” they were accused of aiding.
The ministry said the soldiers were executed in the military’s Southern Command, based close to the border with Yemen, where Saudi Arabia is leading a six-year campaign against Iran-alligned Houthi rebels.
The executions come as Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), the 35-year-old heir to the throne, tightens his control on power.
MbS – the son of King Salman, the kingdom’s ageing monarch – is already viewed as the country’s day-to-day ruler, controlling all the major levers of government, from defence to the economy.
He holds the title of defence minister, while his younger brother Prince Khalid bin Salman is the deputy.
Over the past three years, the crown prince has mounted a sweeping crackdown on critics and rivals, with the imprisonment of prominent royal family members, business tycoons, clerics and activists.
In March last year, Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, a brother of King Salman, and the monarch’s nephew Prince Mohammed bin Nayef were detained, multiple sources said, as the crown prince sought to stamp out traces of internal dissent.
Saudi authorities have not publicly commented on their ongoing detention.
Saudi Arabia has come under increasing global scrutiny over its human rights record since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 at the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate and the detention of women’s rights activists.
Rights groups, including Amnesty International, have called on Riyadh to stop the use of the death penalty, citing allegations of torture and unfair trials.
Saudi Arabia denies the accusations.
According to Amnesty figures, Saudi Arabia carried out the world’s third-highest number of executions in 2019.