Octavia Nasr | BIO
CNN Senior Editor, Mideast Affairs
That’s the question on many people's minds from India to Iran in reaction to a sentencing of execution by beheading for a Lebanese man in the conservative Muslim kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Ali Sibat, A TV Psychic in his native Lebanon, was accused of practicing witchcraft while on pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. According to a strict interpretation of Islamic Law, a judge decided that this is a crime punishable by death.
Lebanon’s Justice Minister, Ibrahim Najjar, says that witchcraft or sorcery does not even amount to a crime in Lebanon. It counts as a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of two months.
Minister Najjar told me this week that he asked Saudi Arabia to halt Sibat's execution and release him. He called the sentence "disproportionate" and "counter-productive."
The news of the imminent execution spread on the internet through social media sites.
A Facebook page was set up asking people to take action. It led to a small demonstration in front of the Saudi Embassy in Beirut. People displayed effigies representing Sibat about to be executed with masked men pretending to be the executioners. Others carried signs on their chests reading, “Don’t kill” in Arabic.
On Twitter, Lebanese people were joined by many other nationals in denouncing what they called the extreme nature of the sentence.
"What age do we live in again?" @Habibh asked in a tweet, followed by a rhetoric question, "Does that mean we'd have to behead all horoscope columnists too?"
Another post by @ziadt said, “He (Ali Sabti) shouldn't get a minute in jail. Saudi is crossing the line, they can live in 1400 and irrationality but can't oblige us to.”
Yet another post by @bilalhouri said Saudi Arabia should not be blamed for the death sentence, instead he described the Lebanese politicians as "muppets" for not stepping in to save Sibat's life.
Will the outrage translate into some kind of mercy for Ali Sibat? In recent history, there have been many cases in Saudi Arabia where King Abdallah stepped in and saved people from what many considered to be unreasonable or unfair sentences.
For now, the man who predicted the future for a living is waiting, uncertain what his future may hold: mercy, sentence reversal or execution.
Follow Octavia Nasr on Twitter @OctaviaNasrCNN.
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