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Saudi Arabia tops global executions list with latest beheading

Saudi authorities beheaded a Pakistani man on Wednesday convicted of smuggling "large quantities" of heroin, the kingdom's state news agency reported, bringing the number of publicly announced executions to its highest level in at least five years.

An Associated Press tally of announcements from the official Saudi Press Agency shows 83 people have been beheaded in Saudi Arabia in 2014, including Wednesday's execution.

Most were executed for drug smuggling. Amnesty International says Saudi Arabia has one of the highest execution rates in the world. The group lists 79 executions in Saudi Arabia in 2013 and 2012, and 82 in 2011 and 2010. The London-based rights group says at least 69 people were executed in 2009.

The countries that carried out the most executions on record last year were Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the U.S., according to Amnesty International. Last year's figures do not include the thousands of people put to death in China, where such information is a state secret.

The kingdom follows a strict interpretation of Islamic law and applies the death penalty on a number of crimes, such as murder and rape, as well as apostasy and witchcraft. Saudi Arabia has come under particular criticism from rights groups for executions carried out for non-fatal crimes.

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