201001 pills
The confiscated pills. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: A Saudi man has been arrested for allegedly being involvedin the promotion of 10,180 medically-controlled pills, police said.

The man was arrested in the capital Riyadh and remanded in custody pending trial, said spokesperson for the Anti-Narcotics Department, Captain Mohammed bin Khaled Al Najidi.

Saudi Arabia is considering ending the use of the death penalty for drug-related offences, a change that could spare the lives of dozens of prisoners in the kingdom every year, according to an official.

The initiative appeared aimed at countering outrage over the kingdom’s human rights record, including its mass executions. The consequences of removing drug offences from the list of capital crimes could be significant: Nearly 40 per cent of the roughly 800 executions carried out in Saudi Arabia over the past five years were for offences such as narcotics trafficking, according to Reprieve, a human rights group that tracks the use of the death penalty in the kingdom.

A Saudi official said that the kingdom was in the process of revising penalties for drug-related crimes and that a decision to “abolish” capital punishment for drug offences was “expected very soon.” The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal government discussions.

So far this year, executions appear to have fallen dramatically: Since January, at least 16 people have been put to death, compared with 140 in the same period in 2019 and 88 in 2018, according to tallies by the European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights, or ESOHR.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman spoke of abolishing the death penalty for some crimes two years ago. In an interview with Time magazine, the Crown Prince said there were a “few areas” where it would be possible to reduce death sentences to life in prison, without specifying what crimes would be affected.

Saudi authorities do not appear to be contemplating ending capital punishment for murder and several other crimes for which penalties are prescribed by Islamic law. But drug offences and other non-violent crimes generally belong to a category of offences known as “tazir,” in which punishments are left to the discretion of a judge.