April 2nd, 2010
07:53 PM ET

'What kind of justice is this?'

Octavia Nasr | BIO
AC360° Contributor
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.

Filed under: Arab Affairs • Middle East • Octavia Nasr
soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. Philip Y

    Islamic countries are filled with fortunetellers! So why so much hype for this poor guy?

    April 3, 2010 at 12:33 pm |
  2. Philip Y

    Is the earth round? Does the sun rotate around the earth? I can see them killing a murderer, but just a fortune teller?

    April 3, 2010 at 12:31 pm |
  3. Moussa

    And yet they wonder why most people dont care about knowing islam. Im a muslim and i was taught that our religion is about forgiveness. Saudi Arabia has crossed the line, I'm ashamed as Lebanese to see my goverment not stepping in to save his life.

    April 3, 2010 at 4:48 am |
  4. amandajnmaui

    This shouldn't surprise us, they haven't ever left the 11th century. Look at the social status of the country! Women still have no rights! They're uneducated. And that's how they want it, that way the monarchy can control the masses without question. Knowledge is power, if u have no knowledge, then you don't know to fight. Because all u know is what u are told. If you can't read and write then ur no threat to the religious state, or the powers that be.

    April 2, 2010 at 10:51 pm |
  5. Charlie Erickson

    Saudi Arabia is just one example of what happens when a country tries to combine 20th & 21st century AD life and technology, with the mindset of a 20th century BC (and older) culture. Tie that in with religious fundamentalism, and this case along many other similar extremist outcomes, is to be expected.

    April 2, 2010 at 7:41 pm |
  6. Rita Nalette

    In my opinion, autonomy notwithstanding, some behaviors are so beyond the pale internationally, they require we speak with one voice.

    April 2, 2010 at 4:58 pm |
  7. Marilyn Niebauer

    The middle East is going backwards. At most he should be sent back to Labanon. In this case "Saudi" and "justice" should not even be in the same sentence

    April 2, 2010 at 3:47 pm |
  8. Cindy

    And this is the mentality of a country the US is "in bed" with. How I love freedom from religious discrimination and progression.

    April 2, 2010 at 3:08 pm |
  9. john Laforme

    This seems rather harsh for something practiced by millions besides with out these people who predict the future most of us would be forced to just follow what the polititions say

    April 2, 2010 at 2:22 pm |
  10. Ex-Saudi

    Unbelievable! And U.S always cries about human rights in Iran. Hypocrisy!

    April 2, 2010 at 1:56 pm |