Saudi woman executed for 'witchcraft and sorcery'

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A Saudi woman has been executed for practising "witchcraft and sorcery", the country's interior ministry says.

A statement published by the state news agency said Amina bint Abdul Halim bin Salem Nasser was beheaded on Monday in the northern province of Jawf.

The ministry gave no further details of the charges which the woman faced.

The woman was the second person to be executed for witchcraft in Saudi Arabia this year. A Sudanese man was executed in September.

'Threat to Islam'

BBC regionalist analyst Sebastian Usher says the interior ministry stated that the verdict against Ms Nasser was upheld by Saudi Arabia's highest courts, but it did not give specific details of the charges.

The London-based newspaper, al-Hayat, quoted a member of the religious police as saying that she was in her 60s and had tricked people into giving her money, claiming that she could cure their illnesses.

Our correspondent said she was arrested in April 2009.

But the human rights group Amnesty International, which has campaigned for Saudis previously sentenced to death on sorcery charges, said it had never heard of her case until now, he adds.

A Sudanese man was executed in September on similar charges, despite calls led by Amnesty for his release.

In 2007, an Egyptian national was beheaded for allegedly casting spells to try to separate a married couple.

Last year, a Lebanese man facing the death penalty on charges of sorcery, relating to a fortune-telling television programme he presented, was freed after the Saudi Supreme Court decreed that his actions had not harmed anyone.

Amnesty says that Saudi Arabia does not actually define sorcery as a capital offence. However, some of its conservative clerics have urged the strongest possible punishments against fortune-tellers and faith healers as a threat to Islam.

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