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April 1, 2010
Posted: 1639 GMT

Sometimes, it's hard to imagine there can be two sides to a story. In Saudi Arabia soon, unless that country's King commutes his sentence, a Lebanese TV host will be beheaded for the crime of "sorcery." Ali Sibat's lawyer says she has learned from a judicial source that the execution is scheduled on Friday.

It's 2010. This isn't 17th Century Salem, Massachusetts, where witches were sentenced to death based on "visions" and flimsy testimony. This isn't the Spanish Inquisition in the 15th century. Those dark periods of religious zealotry during which leaders imposed a certain vision of compliant orthodoxy should be far behind us. Today, Saudis (including the clerics and leaders who issue death sentences for medieval sounding "crimes") have access to satellite television, the Internet and planes that fly them to the four corners of the earth.

Yet there is no sign that officials in Saudi Arabia will suspend the decapitation execution of Ali Sibat. The Lebanese TV host was sentenced to death last year for making predictions on a TV show from his home in Beirut and was arrested in Saudi Arabia while on pilgrimmage in Mecca.

One of America's top allies in the Middle East, whose oil is supplied to so many Western countries, is by all accounts going ahead with one of the most outrageous punishments against a man who isn't even a citizen of that country. Ali Sibat's lawyer says she has not been given access to him. The Lebanese Justice Minister called today on Saudi Arabia to halt the execution of the father of five, calling the sentence "disproportionate."

Human Rights groups, including Amnesty International, which will appear at the International Desk today, say they have tried to raise the profile of this particular case because bad publicity seems to be the only thing that gets the attention of authorities.

We will continue to watch this story, despite the fact that authorities in Saudi Arabia make it almost impossible to gather information on this or any other criminal case.

If this beheading goes ahead, the crime that will truly be committed in Saudi has nothing to do with witchcraft.

Perhaps there are two sides to this story: right and wrong.

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Filed under: Ali Sibat •Saudi Arabia •Today At The I-Desk


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International Desk brings viewers into the heart of the largest news gathering operation in the world. Viewers don't come here to watch the news; they come here to be immersed in it. To feel the rush of being the first to know what's happening as stories break, and to leave knowing they've gotten the best and latest information available. The show airs Mon-Fri at 1900 CET.

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