The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia put a man to death on a cross in the holy city of Mecca on Wednesday, while waging a public relations battle to call out alleged human rights violations in Canada.
The execution came during a deepening dispute between the two countries sparked by Canadian criticism of how Saudi Arabia is treating jailed activists.
The crucified man, Elias Abulkalaam Jamaleddeen, stood accused of murder, theft, and attempted rape, according to Bloomberg.
Saudi Arabia, ruled by its interpretation of Islamic law, rarely carries out crucifixions, but capital punishment remains common.
Crimes such as attending anti-government rallies and homosexuality have contributed to crucifixion sentences in Saudi Arabia in the past.
Wednesday’s death sentence for Jamaleddeen coincides with a new Saudi state media push to attack Canada’s human rights record as an escalation in a growing feud between the two distant countries.
Canada on Monday called for Saudi Arabia to release women’s rights campaigners detained in the country, which prompted a harsh response from the kingdom.
Saudi-owned media blasted Canada for arresting a holocaust denier and other citizens. TV pundits brought up Canada’s suicide rate in what appeared as a broadside against the country’s way of living.
The absolute monarchy ruling Saudi Arabia tightly controls the media broadcast within its borders and its foreign policy messaging.
Saudi media took a decidedly dark turn on Monday when it appeared to threaten Canada with a 9/11-style attack by tweeting a harshly worded infographic with an image of an airliner flying towards Toronto’s skyline.
Diplomatically, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry responded to Canada’s call to free the women’s rights activists as “blatant interference in the kingdom’s domestic affairs.”
The ministry went on to threaten vague retaliation against Ottawa.
“Any further step from the Canadian side in that direction will be considered as acknowledgment of our right to interfere in the Canadian domestic affairs,” it said.
Saudi Arabia immediately suspended new trade agreements with Canada and expelled its ambassador. It stopped medical treatment of Saudis in Canada and made arrangements to bring home Saudi patients.
Saudi scholarship recipients to Canadian universities were ordered to other countries. Saudi Arabia’s airline suspended flights to and from Canada, potentially complicating travel plans for Canada’s Muslim population as the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca approaches later in August.
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