Did Saudi Arabia Crucify a Man During a Human Rights Dispute with Canada?

News accounts juxtaposed the grisly form of punishment with Saudi Arabia's umbrage over Canadian criticism of human rights violations.

  • Published 9 August 2018

Several legitimate news agencies, citing the official state-run Saudi Press Agency, reported on 8 August 2018 that a man accused of murder had been executed and crucified in the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca … as Saudi Arabia retaliated against Canada diplomatically for criticizing Saudi human rights abuses.

The juxtaposition of the Saudi kingdom’s lashing out about human rights abuses even as they engaged in a particularly gruesome form of capital punishment caused some viewers to question whether Internet memes reporting the circumstances could be believed:

Citing the official Saudi government-run news agency, the Associated Press reported that Elias Abulkalaam Jamaleddeen, a Myanmar national, was accused of breaking into a woman’s home and stabbing her to death, as well as stealing weapons, attempting to kill another man, and attempted rape. He was reportedly executed on 7 August 2018 using a rare (but not unheard of) form of capital punishment: “Crucifixions in Saudi Arabia entail hanging a body in public after an execution, and are unusual.”

The news came as Saudi Arabia aggressively reacted to Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland and Global Affairs Canada, who openly criticized the Middle Eastern kingdom for imprisoning two human rights activists, Samar and Raif Badawi:

Saudi Arabia in turn accused Canada of interfering in their internal affairs:

In the resulting dust-up, the Saudis expelled Canada’s ambassador and recalled their own from Canada. In addition, the Saudis pledged to halt new business with Canada, pulled scholarships, grounded flights to and from Canada, and transferred their medical program out of the country.

The spat grew even more heated when a Twitter account associated with a Saudi youth organization tweeted, then deleted, an image many interpreted as threatening because it echoed the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 by showing an airliner flying toward Canada’s iconic CN Tower in Toronto. Most of the nineteen 9/11 attackers hailed from Saudi Arabia.

Infographic KSA, the group that shared the tweet, apologized for posting the image before their entire account was deleted.