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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Cara   April 1st, 2010 4:54 pm ET


Keira   April 1st, 2010 4:58 pm ET

You said it best - these things SHOULD be behind us! Unfortunately, zealots are everywhere. I would think that in 2010 someone would be more 'creative' with the charges but "sorcery"?? These "charges" sound as ridiculous as the ones Iran tried to pin on Roxana Saberi. It's time to emerge from the dark ages & join the 21st century, Saudi Arabia! Keep shining a light on this b/c this is sad, pathetic, infuriating and just plain ridiculous!!!!

Jakup   April 1st, 2010 5:21 pm ET

Sounds like utter insanity from the saudis, If possible CNN should put all the pressure it can, on the goverment, to stop this! People in the west want to know what kind of evil this man has done!? explain to us, what this judgement is about!? But I guess they can´t...
it´s gotta be something personal that they have against this man?
They should rather start concentrating on the real evil that goes on In the world! Both on western and Eastern hemispheres!
If there´s any dark matter materializing itself, without you people, out there,ever taking notice! Mayby I would say that, it has come to the white dressed officials in Saudiarabia!
There are plenty of people that are capable of making predictions about the future, and achiving a pretty accurate tell on it. We call those clairvoyants, truthtellers, Wice people aso. These saudies must be very naiv or?..and still living back in the 17th centure for sure...there is no reason to be afraid of people who are gifted, different!

Padma Sethi   April 1st, 2010 5:37 pm ET

I pray for Saudi's HH KING to have the courage to excercise his Royal authority to pardon Ali Sihat and for HH's Cleric to reconsider at the 11th hour the wrong it would bring both to HH King and cleric themselves if beheading goes ahead; especially with the world watching.

Abimbola Kenny   April 1st, 2010 5:42 pm ET

Hmm..I can't imagine Ali Sibat's death sentence case....How could in this world, a proclaimed islamic peace land be a land of juggle justice without a single forgiveness..

1dave1   April 1st, 2010 5:46 pm ET


Exodus 22:18 in the King James Version of the Bible says "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" and Christianity used to kill witches too; they just don't do it anymore. A man charged with sorcery is scheduled to be beheaded on Friday by the "Sharia Law" courts.

Religiously based societies are primitive and barbaric. Secular societies are more moral and ethical than those with higher rates of belief!

Theists often assert that popular belief in a creator is instrumental towards providing the moral, ethical and other foundations necessary for a healthy, cohesive society. Science proves them wrong and you can see for yourself if you desire!

Religion can be judged based on a scientific study titled "Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies." Google the title and look at the charts that graph the results answering the question and draw your own conclusions!

Eighteen prosperous western nations that had good and accurate census data were studied. People in each of the 18 nations were asked "do you believe in a creator?"

The results show that HIGHER RATES OF BELIEF in and worship of a creator CORRELATE WITH HIGHER RATES of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion. IMHO, this clearly demonstrates that secular nations are more moral and ethical than those nations with higher rates of belief!

It is not possible to scientifically compare data from the prosperous western nations with places like Saudi Arabia because you can not trust that data. Things happen truly unbelievably appalling things like the beheading of a man for sorcery. A while ago a women was sentenced to jail and lashes after she had been gang-raped.

In an older less scientific study, an attempt was made to identify the causes of killing through history. Their conclusion was that you are more likely to be killed by someone close to you and/or by someone of a different religion. You yourself may or may not have noticed that wars often involve one religion killing another and that religions are all too often at war with their neighbors.

Religious extremists act out on their beliefs in an attempt to advertise and promote their beliefs to gain a following. It is hard for a western person to envision that killing could be a primitive form of advertising.

The western world considers "Christian warriors" that kill or plan to kill extremists, terrorists and killers, and we do not support them.

Extremists themselves, regardless of religion, appear to be able to justify killing for their God and believe they will ignite a revolution. Violence does not appear to bring members to your cause in western culture but extremists have more success in Islamic culture.

Some Muslims even support their "extremists" and consider them heroes and martyrs for their God. They even say these suicide killers represent them and are fighting for what they believe in. There are those who think the world should be ruled by "God's Law" which is called "Sharia Law" in Islamic culture.

Islamic civilization is at war with itself in this regard and has yet to collectively decide that killing for your God is ALWAYS evil.

The western world considers those who kill for their God and the people that support them as primitive barbarians who have not yet learned to separate the church and the state. The whole idea behind democracy and the "rule of law" is to use words instead of physical violence to settle a dispute.

People who have been taught logic and the scientific method think more clearly and rationally than those who have been taught faith.

Secular societies are more moral and ethical than those with higher rates of belief because they have left faith behind them and replaced it with reasonable expectation. Teaching children faith stunts the human mind.

The cultures that have adopted "man's law" and left "God's law" behind them are more vibrant and effective in today's world than those cultures that aspire to "God's law."

Adoms valentine   April 1st, 2010 5:49 pm ET

If this withcraft be beheaded for socery then the crime rate in saudi arabia will increase.

stopthisbeheading2day   April 1st, 2010 5:55 pm ET

saudi still in the 7th century they cannot imagine the impact and the damage this will have on muslims and islam worldwide the damage that can and will be irreversable . My only prayer is that the king intervenes in the last hour and releases mr salem for a crime that is not even a crime . its a bit like executing a man for breaking wind in a library thats how pathetic the legal system is – Also 80% of all people executed are foreigners 50% are from south asia and 90% of those south asian muslims executed 9 out of 10 cases are always framed by the alleged fictitious victims – very sad day i hope all moderate muslims convert out of islam this is the only protest that works.

Merlin   April 1st, 2010 6:37 pm ET

If the judge who found Ali Sibat guilty of making predictions really believed Sibat was able to make predictions and see the future, then why would have Sibat set foot in Arabia? Wouldn't he would have known that this was going to happen?

This what happens when a family sells its soul to be dictators. It is time to end the alliance between the "royal" family and the followers of Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab.

Alexandra   April 1st, 2010 7:10 pm ET

It's mind boggling that things like this should continue take place *today*. Unbelievable! And no one is really talking about. What else is going on that we don't know about?

kiana   April 1st, 2010 7:44 pm ET

dhatzz crazii that shudnt still bee legal i mean dhat somthin dhat happen along time ago and if they havent took care of it by now then they shouldnt be able to do nun atleast dhats wat i think i mean dhats just my opinion but if dhats legal then i will them in my prayers sorry for her family that will havet ton go through dhat pain everyday knowing that she's gone i mean do they have any sympathy at all these people are crazy these days i tell yhu must i say may god rest there soul and whoever is beheading her may they rot in hell and sorry too say but that jus how i feel bowt tha sitiuation and dnt care who has something too say this is n=my opinion and dhats how i feel

kaitlyn   April 1st, 2010 7:47 pm ET

All i have to say is that dhats wrong and that i am speachless!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ali Sibat Beheaded In Saudi Arabia For Witchcraft? » Right Pundits   April 1st, 2010 7:56 pm ET

[...] reside there, he should have been extradited back to Lebanon. Ali Sibat made the mistake of making predictions on an Arab TV station “while still in his home in Beirut.” He wasn’t even in the country of [...]

Bill Seamans   April 1st, 2010 11:53 pm ET

living in the past,the saudi will never see the light of freedom.They should look in the mirror and do whats right.Let this man Ali sibat go home to his family.He has done no wrong for more blood to be let.

Biruzz   April 2nd, 2010 2:14 am ET

1dave 1 says: Religiously based societies are primitive and barbaric. Secular societies are more moral and ethical than those with higher rates of belief!

This has nothing to do with religion. This has to be with stupidity. Dont give any religion a bad name because somebody commits a crime and says that I did it in the name of god. God did not ask anybody to behave in a manner that is barbaric. People, humans do this to themselves and to other fellow human beings. Just like the church is getting a bad name now because of the sex scandals. Religion did not ask this men to molest boys, they did it on their own accord.

I feel for Ali Sibat and his family. In a modern society we should gather ways to better and enrich-en all over lives. What is happening to this young man and his family is cruel and degrading. Its morally, ethically and spiritually wrong. Can we expect more from a place where cannot travel freely and are not allowed to even drive or vote. Just because Saudi Arabia has tall buildings and modern structures (all because of money derived from oil) it should not be placed on a pedestal, it is just like the rest of the nations where segments of society are just expendable. How is Saudi Arabia different from Sudan, Somalia or Ethiopia? Just tall buildings that all, other wise they are the same.

I hope Mr. Ali Sibat is given back to his family. I am sure that they miss him something terrible. Imagine that when one goes to make his peace with god in the holy lands he can be caught and charged for nothing. I wonder if the people who caught him are trying to play god.

1dave1   April 2nd, 2010 6:05 am ET

@Biruzz – Teaching a child faith at a young age stunts their mind, makes them stupid and less moral. If you teach a child logic and the scientific method you enable that child to grow and become a better person. Faith is the enemy of man and if it is left behind the world would be a better place.

In the King James Version of Bible Hebrews 11:1 says "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." If you were actually trained to believe this then you have lost some of your potential to actually see and accept reality as it is.

It is about religion because religion trains people stupid and less moral.

Jeff Draper   April 2nd, 2010 7:00 am ET

I can't believe that in this day and age this can happen.

Al-Saery, Saudi Arabia   April 2nd, 2010 5:23 pm ET

Ali Sibat got what he deserves. it is God's law to create a peaceful world. His actions are devils and Islam forbids this. The Saudi government has made the right judgement. God's law doesn't change whether it is 21st centrury or 50th centrury.

kinston-Denmark   April 2nd, 2010 5:35 pm ET

We are still living in the past where we see but we don't think properly. the Vatican has always been a place where cimes are welcome and not condemned. If we have to go back to the period where vatican was called the Papal State, we are going to see the same behaviour. i mean cover-up of crimes. How can men of God rabe children and they are still allowed to stand infront their victims to preach God's Words. Is this not hypocracy? God was angry with Sodom and Gomorrah because of cases like this. I think the Vatican can be either Sodom or Gomorrah. The Pop should be investigated exception. As a head of vatican, he should have been awaken to act fast to punish all the alleged priests. But since maybe he is one of them, he can afford to do so- because there is a saying that "you can't clean a muddy shoes of a friend, without checking your sfirst".

D,Zious   April 2nd, 2010 7:01 pm ET

I am really surprise that cnn all the time focused on the religion issues specially "ISLAM" , the last few years no one in the globe even arabs who are speaking the arabic langauge the never know what the meaning of the this word!!! and the westerns who speaking english or any other langauge the call them " Muslims" the real fact of these words have totally and completely other science meanings not related to the those who call themslves "Muslims" and they recognized as they follow "Islam"
the words written by shape called arabic and the non-minded people from the westerns they followed them up to call it islam and muslims, as well as those thise arabs not muslims and nor arabs and the this the fact.
the westerns not able to understand anymore!!!
the Excution not a fixed regulation and not even related to any action or even if some one killed another one, otherwise we can ask ourselves why USA had accepted the excuation of Saddam Hussein and his trial totally not cleared yet!!!!!

A. Smith, Oregon   April 2nd, 2010 10:25 pm ET

A great many Christian 'hero's of the medieval era executed thousands of similar individuals simply because they labeled them as 'heretics'. Its terribly ironic that prophets that foretold the future were saints, those that did the same foretelling that were perceived as enemy's by the Christian leaders were 'heretics' and executed.

Yes, even in this day it is heinous to see such nations still following a horrific religious example as previously found in Christianity and now in evidence in the Muslim religion.

And as innocent Americans were rounded up by Bush-Cheney's contracted henchmen under the guise of being 'terrorists' and the sordid legality of rendition, whisked away to secret CIA prisons around the world and subjected to torture, Where were those speaking out against those practices?

How many American's survived those ordeals to tell about it?

k. cox   April 3rd, 2010 12:22 am ET

I suddenly have an image of the desert, with a man coming out of a tent wearing a window curtain, shouting "Off with his head". Is Saudi Arabia even in the 21st century?

ghassan aljord   April 4th, 2010 10:28 am ET

R e s p e c t is mandatory everywhere .It has bee sung in a song, and talked about in every neighboorhood.Saudi is no different.When they are disrespected ,they need to do something about it.
Thank you

Aby   April 4th, 2010 2:08 pm ET

Brothers; I am so surprised about the nature of your response to this article. I am an Arabic Muslim, I do live in the Arab world since I was born. I hold a PhD. in Science. I have been in the western world for short periods, and I used to interact with westerns and to watch allot of western ( American) series and movies. I do love the western way of life and thinking, and at the same time, I am so "proud" of being an Arab and a Muslim.

The way you are expressing your feelings about this victim gives me the impression that you never heard about the dozens of innocent people in the Arab-Islamic world that are being killed, left bleeding till death, starved kids, people living directly under the sun or under the storms for more than two years, many families who were smashed and buried under the heap of their own homes at the early hours of the dawn, just for a "suspect!!!" that armed personnel are there.

All of this is BEING done up to now, and tomorrow, and following, and all of this is BEING done by western civilized hands and minds.

All of this is seen and heard by us on daily basis. Sometimes we hear from the victims themselves or their relatives.

Now, does this justify the content of the above article? Absolutely NO. But, is the size of this crime comparable with the sizes of the above mentioned ones? and are condemn strength of both proportional to their sizes. Is this victim a human and others are not?

May be you don't know about the above mentioned daily criminals. In this case, let me borrow a saying we have in Arabic: It is a Disaster if you don't know, But it is a huge Disaster if you do.

Finally; as a comment on the article: our Islam considers killing one innocent human ' Muslim or non Muslim' as bad as killing the whole humanity, and saving one innocent human as good as saving the whole humanity.

Please take my advice as an educated civilized 'human':
You will never find a belief in the world more human than Islam, so if you are interested, search for the truly understood Islam from civilized educated Muslims, and believe me, they are plenty.

earle,florida   April 9th, 2010 1:08 am ET

Oh yea,...this is really religion at it's best, wonder the Jews are weary of the Arabs,...pathetic!

Chris   April 20th, 2010 6:20 pm ET

This is just too too sad...This poor man & his Family!!! I have many Muslim friends who HATE the Saudi's (Kuwait is in their too) for their hypocrisy of their religion. America has made MANY mistakes with the policies of President Bush but WHERE is the outrage & angry for ALL the evil that goes on by the hands of the Saudi's & their policies. WHERE are ALL the other Countries & the U.N. in this matter? WHERE are ALL the PEOPLE protesting out in front the Saudi Embassies worldwide??? I HOPE this man is saved...

Kunal Banerji   February 27th, 2011 3:38 pm ET

This is the most absurd thing I have ever heard in this age and times.
How can any govt. Of any religion or any political affiliation actually believe in witchcraft today ! What is the point of having so much money and unlimited oil.....and yet not spread education amounts the people .
Only education can free the world of "witchcraft". The media MUST save this person. The media must shame the Saudi govt. Into letting this person go free . For God s sake do something !

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