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Saudi Arabia beheads men for stealing

By Saad Abedine, CNN
March 13, 2013 -- Updated 2359 GMT (0759 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Seven men did not get fair trials, United Nations says
  • Saudi official news source quotes passage in Quran about stealing
  • U.N. says men may have been tortured and forced to confess

(CNN) -- Seven men were executed by beheading Wednesday in Saudi Arabia for stealing, according to SPA, the official Saudi New agency.

The deaths came a day after the United Nations called for the kingdom not to carry out the punishment, in part because the men had allegedly not been given fair trials. The U.N. said the men were reportedly accused of organizing a criminal group, armed robbery, raiding and breaking into jewelry stores in 2005.

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The U.N. special rapporteur on torture, Juan E. Mendez, said there are also grave concerns that the men were tortured during detention and forced to sign confessions.

"This is not the only in breach of Saudi Arabia's international obligations under international law, which imposes an outright prohibition on torture, it is also in breach of the government's international obligation under the Convention against Torture that explicitly forbids the use of all forms of torture for the purpose of extracting confessions or acquiring information," he said.

SPA issued a statement on behalf of the Ministry of Interior that starts with a Quranic verse from the chapter "The Table Spread."

"The punishment of those who wage war against God and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter."

CNN's Hamdi Alkhshali contributed to this report.

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