Saudi Arabia Executes Man For Smuggling Captagon After ‘Forced Confession’

The execution of Jordanian national Hussein Abu al-Khair for a drug offence is the latest in a wave of state killings carried out by the Saudi regime.
Max Daly
London, GB
Hussein Abu al-Khair executed saudi arabia
Saudi officials announced the execution of Hussein Abu al-Khair on March 12. Photo: Zainab al-Khair.

A Jordanian man whose family say he was tortured into a drug smuggling confession has been executed in Saudi Arabia. 

There are no official accounts of how the execution was carried out. Saudi Arabia has previously beheaded condemned criminals but firing squads have also been used.

Hussein Abu al-Khair, a father of eight and driver for a wealthy Saudi family, was accused of smuggling 200,000 captagon pills over the border into Saudi Arabia in his car in 2014. Captagon is an amphetamine popular in the Middle East.


He denied the charges, saying the drugs had been planted by police. According to his family and the European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights he was hung up by his feet and beaten into a confession before being sentenced to death in a trial described by Amnesty International as “grossly unfair”. 

Despite appeals for his release last year by the UN Human Rights office, which said the death penalty for drug offences is unjust, the Saudi press agency announced his execution on Sunday. 

Khair’s killing is the latest in a flurry of executions carried out by the Saudi authorities in recent months. In November 2022 VICE World News reported the ultra-conservative country had executed 15 people in 12 days for non-violent drug offences, despite promising to end them. 

Campaign group Reprieve said there had been 11 executions in Saudi Arabia in the last nine days.

In January it reported that the kingdom executed at least 147 people last year including a mass execution day on March 12 last year. The report said executions targeted foreigners and drug offenders. 


“Exactly a year ago, Mohammed bin Salman's regime executed 81 men in a single day, and Saudi Arabia's international partners shrugged and issued empty statements about the importance of human rights,” said Reprieve's director, Maya Foa. 

“Rather than condemn the Crown Prince, world leaders queued up to shake his bloodstained hands. Today's atrocity and others like it is the inevitable result. When partners signal that the Saudi regime can kill without consequences, you can be sure it will,” she added.

Reprieve said the authorities did not warn Khair’s family he was due to be executed. 

Conservative MP David Davis, who had previously raised Khair’s case in UK parliament, said: “The UK government knew Hussein Abu al-Khair was at imminent risk, but the foreign secretary failed to publicly call for his execution to be halted, despite his predecessors taking this kind of action in the past. The UK must signal it will no longer turn a blind eye to executions like these, and speak out strongly on behalf of others who remain at risk.”