An article went up on CNN Friday morning detailing the bizarre case of one Ali Hussain Sibat, a Lebanese man currently on death row in Saudi Arabia. It discussed how his lawyer is optimistic that this father of five might not be executed for a crime he was arrested for in 2008. So what heinous crime did Sibat commit to deserve such a harsh sentence, especially one due to be carried out so quickly? Surely he's a murderer, cannibal, or serial rapist, right? After all, Saudi Arabia's an ally of the United States and considered to be one of the Middle East's most modern countries. I mean, this guy couldn't possibly be awaiting decapitation1 for some crazy, made up crime that only the most backwards parts of the world would even have laws about, right?
Wrong. Ali Hussain Sibat's life hangs in the balance because last November he was convicted of sorcery. Sorcery.
Apparently the details of the case haven't been made fully public, but the article indicates that Mr. Sibat was, for all intents and purposes, some kind of telephone psychic in Lebanon. He was arrested by Saudi Arabian religious police while he was visiting the country as part of an Islamic religious pilgrimage. I'm very curious to find out if they were lying in wait to arrest him (Perhaps he's prominent in the region?) or if he actually did something to attract their attention. In any event, the fact that there are even laws on the books anywhere in the world that so much as treat wizarding as a real thing boggles the mind.
Even though his death sentence was upheld on appeal in March, it appears that Mr. Sibat probably won't face the headsman thanks to the intervention of the Lebanese government. Really though, it saddens me to think that in the 21st century there's international debate over whether freakin' sorcery is a punishable crime.
Naturally I'll try and keep up with this story and will keep readers abreast of any developments.
1.) Turns out they cut people's heads off in Saudi Arabia. Who knew?