Saudi to behead Lebanese TV star for witchcraft

Ali Hussain Sibat w 2 kids
Ali Hussain Sabat pictured with 2 of his 5 children

The lawyer for a  Lebanese TV star  sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for witchcraft has appealed for international help to save him.

Ali Hussain Sabat was the host of a popular Lebanese TV show in which he predicted the future and gave advice.

He was arrested by religious police on sorcery charges while on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia in 2008.

His lawyer, May el-Khansa, says she has been told Mr Sabat is due to be executed within 48 hours

Ms Khansa has contacted the Lebanese president and prime minister to appeal on his behalf.

There has been no official confirmation from Saudi Arabia, but executions there are often carried out with little warning.

Mr Sabat did make a confession, but Ms Khansa says he only did so because he had been told he could go back to Lebanon if he did.

Human rights groups have accused the Saudis of “sanctioning a literal witch hunt by the religious police”.

“Ali Hussain Sabat appears to have been convicted solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression,” Malcolm Smart, head of Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa program, said in a press release.

“It is high time the Saudi Arabian government joined the international trend towards a worldwide moratorium on executions,” Smart said, urging Lebanese authorities and Saudi King Abdullah to stop the execution.

An Egyptian working as a pharmacist in Saudi Arabia was executed in 2007 after having been found guilty of using sorcery to try to separate a married couple.

There is no legal definition of witchcraft in Saudi Arabia, but horoscopes and fortune telling are condemned as un-Islamic.

Nevertheless, there is still a big thirst for such services in the country where widespread superstition survives under the surface of strict religious orthodoxy.

Khansa’s appeal

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.

Amnesty International meanwhile joined the fray of rights groups who have expressed concern about Sabat’s case.

Ya Libnan urges president Suleiman and Prime minister Hariri to immediately contact Saudi king Abdullah to appeal for clemency , stop this crazy act by the Saudi judiciary and save the life of this innocent man , who did not break any Saudi laws since he exercised his freedom of speech in Lebanon and not Saudi Arabia .