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Death sentence no longer mandatory for drug smugglers
Saudi Arabia has redefined its drug trafficking laws, giving discretionary powers to judges and allowing them to hand down jail sentences instead of awarding the death penalty, the Jeddah-based Saudi Gazette reported. The Saudi Anti-Drug and Mental Effects Regulation stipulates the death penalty for drug traffickers, manufacturers and recipients of any narcotic substances. However, judges can now exercise discretion to reduce the sentence to imprisonment for a maximum of 15 years, sessions of 50 lashes, and a minimum fine of 100,000 Saudi riyals [more than 26,000 US dollars].
According to media reports, at least 62 people have been beheaded this year in the kingdom, a large number of them for drug-related crimes.
News of the change to the Saudi drug laws came as the anti-narcotics department arrested a group of drug traffickers and seized a large quantity of cannabis at the King Khaled International Airport in the capital, Riyadh. The group was arrested following an anonymous tip-off that they would shortly arrive at the airport, Saudi newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat reports, saying it has learned that the traffickers are Pakistani in origin and had smuggled the drugs from Pakistan via the United Arab Emirates.
Earlier in September, a Saudi official told the newspaper that the smuggling of drugs into the kingdom from Iraq has increased. He also warned that it was being used to raise funds for the militants fighting the security forces in Iraq and al-Qaeda's activities within the kingdom.
27 Sep 2005
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