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Hollande faces criticism for awarding highest French honor to Saudi prince

7 March 2016 13:22



French President Francois Hollande has come under strident criticism over awarding France’s highest honor to a Saudi prince.

On Sunday, activists opposing the death penalty – routinely practiced by Saudi Arabia in the form of beheading – harshly criticized on social media the bestowal of the Order to 56-year-old Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who is also the First Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Interior of Saudi Arabia, many tweeting using the hashtag “#honte” (#shame).

According to the French presidential office, the Saudi crown prince received the medal on Friday, during a visit to Paris and for what was cited as his “efforts in the fight against terrorism and extremism.” The ceremony received no media coverage, and the awarding was not confirmed until two days later. The secrecy was apparently meant to spare the development widely-expected criticism.

Objection by the activists came on the same day that Saudi Arabia carried out its 70th execution in 2016, decapitating a man convicted of murder.

The most stunning case of execution came on January 2, when Saudi Arabia beheaded Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent political figure and dissident, in defiance of international calls for his release.

According to an AFP count, Saudi Arabia carried out 153 executions, including on 71 foreign nationals, in 2015. In annual terms, the figure had been unprecedented since 1995.

Beheading with a sword is the most common form of execution in Saudi Arabia.

Riyadh has been under fire for having one of the world’s highest execution rates.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the Saudi regime to abolish its “ghastly” beheadings.

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