Friday, April 2, 2010

Fortune-telling is repugnant in Saudi Arabia (and a capital crime)

This headline caught my eye this morning: Lebanese Not to Be Beheaded Friday for Witchcraft

"A Lebanese man condemned to death for witchcraft by a Saudi court will not be beheaded Friday as had been expected, his lawyer said.
Attorney May al-Khansa said Lebanon's justice minister told her that her client, Ali Sibat, will not be executed in Saudi Arabia on Friday -- the day executions are typically carried out in the kingdom after noon prayers.
She said it is still unclear whether the beheading had been waived or only postponed. "
"Sibat, a 49-year-old father of five, made predictions on an Arab satellite TV channel from his home in Beirut.
He was arrested by the Saudi religious police during his pilgrimage to the holy city of Medina in May 2008 and sentenced to death last November for witchcraft.
The Saudi justice system, which is based on Islamic law, does not clearly define the charge of witchcraft.
Sibat is one of scores of people reported arrested every year in the kingdom for practicing sorcery, witchcraft, black magic and fortunetelling. The deeply religious authorities in Saudi consider these practices polytheism. "

(Presumably the ability of fortune tellers to predict the future is imperfect, since otherwise Mr Sibat might have skipped this trip.)

Update 4/24/10: "But fraud, while a crime, is not punishable by death, said Mr. AlGasim, the retired judge. Only actual sorcery is a crime.
“You have to differentiate between acts that cheat or deceive people for money, which deserve to be punished, and dealing with magic,” he said. “There is no mechanism to prove it, and any confession is open to doubt, especially if someone confesses in prison.” "

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