JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) - A Saudi court sentenced a middle-aged joy-rider to death by beheading for accidentally killing two people while performing a car stunt near the capital Riyadh, the Saudi newspaper Al Watan reported on Tuesday.
A pastime known as “drifting,” in which drivers make their cars spin and skid at high speed, is popular among Saudi men with few options for entertainment in a conservative kingdom where cinemas do not exist and mixing between unrelated men and women is forbidden.
Al Watan reported that the defendant, which it said identified himself as “Mutannish” - “he who ignores” in Arabic, struck and killed two men while performing the thrill-seeking stunt and fled the scene before being arrested.
“The court of Onaiza handed down a sentence to kill the drifter ‘mutannish’ by beheading as punishment for his heinous deed and to deter others who tamper with the nation’s security,” the report stated.
Al Watan did not say when the sentence would be carried out. A Justice Ministry spokesman could not be reached for comment.
Saudi authorities have treated deaths resulting from acts of “drifting” as criminally negligent homicides.
In 2005, a Saudi naval officer found guilty of killing three minors in a stunt-driving accident was handed a death sentence that was subsequently reduced to 3,000 lashes and 20 years in prison, according to local media.
Saudi Arabia, which follows a strict version of Sunni Islam, does not have a written penal code and judges issue verdicts according to their own interpretation of the Koran.
Amnesty International has said that at least 82 people were executed in Saudi Arabia last year, many of them by public beheading.
Reporting by Asma Alsharif; editing by Isabel Coles and Mark Heinrich