A Lebanese man sentenced to death for “sorcery” is said to have been given a temporary reprieve after human rights groups accused the Saudi authorities of condoning a literal “witch hunt” by religious police.
Ali Sabat used to host a show on a Lebanese-based satellite TV station in which he told fortunes. He was arrested on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia in 2008.
His family is devastated. Umm Ali, Ali Sabat’s mother said: “Those who will help bring my son back, I will pray for them and for their goodwill. For two years I have been suffering.”
Rights group Amnesty International is calling for the death sentence to be revoked arguing that Ali Sabat was merely practising his right to free speech.
Sabat’s lawyer May Al-Khansa said: “He is a pious Muslim man and if he made a mistake then it does not deserve the death sentence especially since he is the head of a family of five. He has a mother and father who need him. If he dies the family will be destroyed.”
Fortune-telling in conservative Saudi Arabia and Gulf Arab states is popular despite being outlawed by strict religious authorities as un-Islamic.