Who Was the Executed Saudi Prince Turki Bin Saud Al-Kabir?

Bangladesh beheading protest
Members of Magic Movement, a group of young Bangladeshis, stage a mock execution scene in protest of Saudi Arabia beheading of eight Bangladeshi workers in front of National Museum in Dhaka October 15, 2011. Saudi authorities executed a prince after he shot and killed a man in a brawl, official state media reported. Andrew Biraj/Reuters

Saudi authorities executed a prince in Riyadh on Tuesday after a court found him guilty of murder, according to the Saudi state news agency. Prince Turki Bin Saud Al-Kabir was the first member of royalty executed in the Gulf Kingdom since 1975.

How did Kabir become the first Saudi royal to be executed for more than four decades?

Murder

Kabir pleaded guilty to the shooting and killing of fellow Saudi citizen Adel bin Suleiman bin Abdulkareem Al-Muhaimeed during a mass brawl, according to Saudi state media. A court found him guilty three years ago for the incident in the al-Thumama region, on the outskirts of Riyadh.

Because the victim’s family rejected offers of money in return for clemency, he was sentenced to the death penalty.

The country’s General Court sentenced him to death, a ruling supported by the Supreme Court, before a royal decree ordered the sentence be carried out. Saudi state news did not say how authorities carried out the execution but capital punishment is regularly carried out in public in the kingdom.

In a statement, the Interior Ministry said that the death penalty showed that it cared about “security, justice and safety for all,” online site Arab News reported. The country follows a strict conservative brand of Wahhabi Islam, in which sharia law is implemented for criminal acts.

Prominent Prince

Neither the Saudi state news agency nor the Interior Ministry did not release personal details about Kabir, a typical trend in the conservative Islamic country. Alleged images of Kabir were circulating on Twitter but Newsweek could not verify their authenticity.

Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud, a member of the royal family, speaking to the New York Times by telephone, said that Kabir was a member of one of the most important branches of the royal family.

However, he was not in the line of descendents of King Abdulaziz, the leader who founded the country in 1932. Every Saudi king has been a son of the kingdom’s founding father and present King Salman belongs to this lineage. His family ties had no impact on the court’s decision, al-Saud added.

“The king has always said that there is no difference in the law between princes and others, and I think that this is clear manifestation of the reality of that fact,” he told the newspaper.

One commentator on Saudi Arabia, who did not wish to be quoted speaking about the prince’s execution, told Newsweek that while Kabir was not in line with Abdulaziz, he was not “from the periphery” and was not “unimportant.”

Justice for all

Kabir’s execution sparked much conversation on Saudi social media, with commentators from different sections of the country’s society taking to Twitter, mostly in support of the Saudi authorities decision to treat him like any other Saudi citizen.

The hashtag “Decisive Salman orders retribution for the prince” began to pick up traction on Twitter in support of the country’s monarch. But Mohammed Khalid Alyahya, non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council, says Kabir’s execution is “nothing really significant in Saudi” because princes are held to the same legal standards as others.

“It’s really made the rounds in U.S. and Western media because there is this perception that princes are above the law in Saudi Arabia,” he says. “It’s very clear, if a family [of the victim] agrees to give him clemency then he is exempt from the execution, if they don’t then it goes through. There is no way around it.”

May Romanos, Saudi Arabia Researcher at Amnesty International released a statement on the execution to Newsweek: “The death penalty is a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and should not be applied in any circumstances. Whether the accused is a prince, an ordinary Saudi Arabian citizen or a migrant  worker makes no difference whatsoever—no one should be sentenced to death or executed.”

Explaining the big time difference between the royal executions, Alyahya says there have not “been many murder cases involving members of the royal family in the past several decades to my knowledge.”

Saudi’s ageing royal elite is one at odds with a youthful society, where more than half of the country’s population is now aged under 25. The House of Saud holds great wealth and its thousands of members enjoy a life of luxury in comparison with those who fall outside its lineage.

The decision appears to be a demonstration that there is no one exempt from the strict laws that regular citizens are held to on a daily basis. The Interior Ministry conveyed this in their statement, saying that the “legitimate punishment would be the fate of whoever tries to assault innocent people and shed their blood.”