x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Saudi King Abdullah suspends all executions for three months

Decision from King Abdullah gives a Filipino worker on death row an unexpected reprieve after Manila failed to meet a blood money deadline.

MANILA // Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah suspended all executions for three months, giving a Filipino worker on death row an unexpected reprieve after his family and the Philippine government failed to meet a deadline to raise blood money to pay the victim's family.

Jejomar Binay, the Filipino vice president, who is also the presidential adviser on Filipino workers overseas, said a senior Saudi official informed the Philippine embassy in Riyadh on Monday that the Saudi king has postponed all executions, including that of Filipino murder convict Joselito Zapanta, until June 8.

Benigno Aquino, the Philippines president, has written the Saudi king requesting for more time to raise US$1 million (Dh3.67m) demanded by the family of the Sudanese landlord killed by Zapanta in 2009, said the Philippines foreign affairs spokesman, Raul Hernandez.

The deadline for raising the money was yesterday but no execution date has been disclosed, he said.

Mr Hernandez said only US$245,055 has been raised in private and government contributions.

"This is a blessing from God," Mr Binay said. "However, this does not mean that the victim's wife has agreed to extend the deadline for the family of Joselito to raise the 'blood money'."

Mr Binay said Mr Aquino and Zapanta's mother separately wrote King Abdullah on Saturday "to ask for help".

Mr Binay said Zapanta was visited by his mother and a Philippine embassy staff member the following day.

The Saudi newspaper Al Watan reported on Sunday that a ministerial committee was looking into formally dropping public beheadings as a method of execution in the oil-rich kingdom and considering fatal shootings as an alternative.

The kingdom executes anyone convicted of murder, armed robbery, rape and trafficking in drugs.

The government estimates there are more than 1 million Filipinos in Saudi Arabia, part of about 10 million overseas workers who send home billions of dollars that help shore up the Philippine economy.