Psychic’s execution delayed… or waived?

Ali Sibat, the Middle East psychic who has been languishing in a Saudi Arabian prison for almost two years awaiting a death sentence to be carried out, was due to be beheaded on Good Friday.

According to a BBC news report on 1st April, the Lebanese Justice Minister had been in dialogue with the Saudi government about the sentence, on which I reported back in December.

It seems these discussions have borne fruit, resulting in – at the very least – a postponement of the barbaric sentence on the 49-year-old father of five. But his attorney, May al-Khansas, does not know whether her client’s decapitation has been waived or just postponed.

Friday is the day on which executions are usually carried out in Saudi Arabia… after noon prayers. But Lebanon’s justice minister, Ibrahim Najjar, told the attorney that her client’s execution would not take place as planned, on 2 April.

Ali Sibat’s only crime is that he appeared regularly on a satellite TV show in Lebanon, where psychics are very popular, dispensing advice and guidance to people who requested it.

It seems that he and most other people in his home country saw no conflict between his apparent paranormal powers and his Muslim beliefs. But Saudi’s religious police took a very different view and promptly arrested him when he visited Medina on a pilgrimage for the Hajj.

He was accused of witchcraft and told that if he signed a “confession” he would be released and sent home. It seemed like the best way out of a tricky situation and Ali Sibat complied.

Once he “confessed”, however, he was charged with the crime – even though no particular misdemeanour is specified – and a court found him guilty, sentencing his to death.

It was clear from a BBC radio interview that senior Lebanese government officials have been working hard behind the scenes in an attempt to get the Saudi Arabian government to overturn the judgement. But Ali Sibat’s legal representative was uncertain how successful those efforts would be in the long-term.

It could be that by the time you read these words, the Lebanese psychic will have had the death penalty lifted … or carried out.

Let us hope that growing international pressure will persuade the Saudis to overturn the court’s sentence and release the popular psychic whose future no one seems to have predicted.


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