Page last updated at 00:24 GMT, Thursday, 1 April 2010 01:24 UK

'Sorcerer' faces imminent death in Saudi Arabia

By Sebastian Usher
BBC News, London

Riyadh street scene
Many Saudi executions are beheadings by the sword in public places

The lawyer for a Lebanese man sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for witchcraft has appealed for international help to save him.

Ali Sabat was the host of a popular Lebanese TV show in which he predicted the future and gave advice.

He was arrested by religious police on sorcery charges while on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia in 2008.

His lawyer, May el-Khansa, says she has been told Mr Sabat is due to be executed this week.

Ms Khansa has contacted the Lebanese president and prime minister to appeal on his behalf.

There has been no official confirmation from Saudi Arabia, but executions there are often carried out with little warning.


Mr Sabat did make a confession, but Ms Khansa says he only did so because he had been told he could go back to Lebanon if he did.

Human rights groups have accused the Saudis of "sanctioning a literal witch hunt by the religious police".

An Egyptian working as a pharmacist in Saudi Arabia was executed in 2007 after having been found guilty of using sorcery to try to separate a married couple.

There is no legal definition of witchcraft in Saudi Arabia, but horoscopes and fortune telling are condemned as un-Islamic.

Nevertheless, there is still a big thirst for such services in the country where widespread superstition survives under the surface of strict religious orthodoxy.

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