Monday, March 25, 2013

Qatar and Islamists force Moaz Alkhatib to resign as leader of the Syrian opposition

 Moaz Alkhatib, the head of Syria's main opposition group the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) resigned on Sunday, weakening the moderate wing of the two-year revolt against President Bashar al-Assad's rule. The resignation of Alkhatib, a former imam of the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus who had offered Assad a negotiated exit, could make the West more cautious in supporting the revolt. Alkhatib was seen as a moderate bulwark against the rising influence of al-Qaeda linked jihadist forces.
Moazz Alkhatib
Syrian opposition leaders are due to attend an Arab League summit this week, Qatar said earlier on Sunday, looking for more support for their armed uprising.
Last week, the coalition chose Islamist-leaning technocrat Ghassan Hitto as a provisional prime minister to form a government. Hitto, whose cabinet is supposed to govern rebel-held areas currently ruled by hundreds of brigades and emerging warlords, was backed by the Muslim Brotherhood and coalition Secretary General Mustafa Sabbagh, who has strong links with Qatar. Alkhatib's position  was weakened considerably by this choice of Hitto,  along with a moderate wing of the revolution. Winners was the Salafists. 
The rise of Salafists as the most effective fighting force, and their recent gains on the ground, have contributed to the coalition adopting a more hardline stance in recent weeks, rejecting dialogue with Assad except under strict conditions and ignoring promises to include more women and minorities.

"Basically Qatar and the Brotherhood forced Alkhatib out. In Alkhatib they had a figure who was gaining popularity inside Syria but he acted too independently for their taste," said Fawaz Tello, an independent opposition campaigner. They brought in Hitto. The position of Alkhatib as leader became untenable."
The appointment of Hitto prompted nine people to suspend their membership in the 62-member body, saying that promises to reform the coalition and respect consensus have been discarded.
Earlier this year, Alkhatib floated an initiative for the opposition to talk to Assad's administration about a political transition, but said the Damascus government did not respond.

Fighting in N-Lebanese city Tripoli claims 12 lives

A Lebanese Sunni gunman aims his rifle during clashes between the Sunni Muslim Bab al-Tabbaneh and Alawite Jabal Mohsen neighbourhood in Al- Koubbeh, in Tripoli, March 22, 2013. REUTERS/Omar Ibrahim
Intense fighting over a period of three days in the northern city of Tripoli has claimed the lives of 12 people, security sources said Sunday, as the Lebanese Army continued its drive to end the deadly clashes between supporters and opponents of President Bashar Assad.
The sources said most of the fatalities, including a Lebanese solider, were the result of sniper fire, adding that some 25 others were wounded.
Saturday night saw intense clashes between the rival neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen, ending a tenuous cease-fire put in place a day earlier.
The fighting between Bab al-Tabbaneh, a neighborhood with a majority Sunni population that supports the Syrian uprising, and Jabal Mohsen, where Lebanon’s Alawite community resides, tapered off in the early hours of Sunday.
At around 9 p.m. Saturday, the Lebanese Army carried out several raids in the two neighborhoods, as part of their plan to clear the streets of gunmen.
While not apprehending any of the combatants, soldiers did confiscate large quantities of weapons used in the battles, including rocket-propelled grenades and machineguns.
Clashes between the two sides renewed at around midnight and continued for a period of two hours before tapering off.
Residents of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen have been fighting on and off since 2008. However, tensions and clashes between both the sides have increased in frequency and intensity since the Syrian uprising began in 2011.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Lebanese government resigns

Mikati (Reuters)
Lebanon’s president Michel Sleiman on Saturday accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Mikati who stepped down following disputes with political allies the preceding night.
Mikati officially tendered his resignation Saturday morning, saying that his decision was “personal” one, adding that he had consulted no one prior to the announcement. The now acting premier, whose appointment in June 2011 by a Hezbollah-led government triggered days of violent protests across Lebanon by opposition supporters, urged Lebanese to engage in dialogue for the creation a unity government.
 Mikati’s resignation follows months of political turmoil and calls by opposition leader for him to step down. It essentially dissolves the current government. Sleiman has asked the premier to serve a caretaker role until that can be achieved. Mikati announced his resignation already Friday night after Sleiman suspended a cabinet session following rifts over the creation of a body to oversee upcoming parliamentary elections, and the renewal of police chief’s tenure. Some members of Mikati’s 8 March coalition reportedly refused to discuss the renewal of the head of the country’s Internal Security Forces, Ashraf Rifi, who is distrusted by many in the government. Mikati had tried to resign twice before, once in 2011 over disputes to fund the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, and again in October 2012 after the assassination of intelligence chief Wissam al-Hassan which prompted several days of violent, anti-government demonstrations.

PKK-commander has ordered to halt actions after Newruz-message from Abdullah Öcalan

Turkey Ocalan cropped
 Thousands listened to Öcalan's message Thursday in Diyarbakir waving PKK flags and portraits of Öcalan. The Turkish prime minister Erdoğan and president Gül criticized the absence of Turkish flags. (Photo AP)

The leader of the the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq, Murat Karayılan, has ordered the group's militants to halt their actions, Doğan news agency has reported. However, he did not mention any "withdrawal" in a message he broadcast to militants via walkie-talkie.
The jailed leader of PKK Abdullah Öcalan declared a ceasefire on Thursday and called on armed militants to withdraw from Turkish soil, indicating that these moves would mark a milestone for “a new era” and herald the building of a “new Turkey.”

“Today a new era is beginning. A door has been opened from armed struggle to democratic struggle,” he said in the message, which was read out by a Kurdisdh parlementariran to more than a million people who had gathered in Diyarbakır to celebrate Newruz, the Kurdish New Year .
The leader of the the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq, Murat Karayılan. Hürriyet photo
Murat Karayilan
In comments on the Newruz celebrations and Öcalan's message, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan expressed frustration with the absence of Turkish flags. “The lack of Turkish flags was contrary to Öcalan's message,” said Erdoğan, speaking during an official visit in the Netherlands. Erdoğan has taken considerable risks since being elected in 2002, breaking taboos deep-rooted in a conservative establishment by extending cultural and language rights to Kurds.  
 On Friday also president Abdullah Gül and other politicans criticized the absence of Turkish flags. and said this 'sent the wrong message'. Gül called it a big mistake. Kurdish politicians said that at Newruz celebrations like this one never before Turkish flags had been flown. They said that it was more important to pa attention to tye contant of Öcalan's message.
 Öcalan's announcement follows months of talks with Turkish intelligence officers and Kurdish politicians on a prison on İmrali Island in the Marmara Sea where he has been held since his capture by Turkish special forces in Kenya in 1999. It is expected to cement peace talks with the Turkish government that have been edging forward since October. The PKK launched its campaign in 1984, demanding an independent Kurdish state in the Southeast of Turkey. In recent years it has moderated its demands and now asks political autonomy and broader cultural rights in an area where the Kurdish language has long been formally banned.
More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict with the PKK so far.  Over the past years, Turkey has taken steps to expand the cultural and political rights of the Kurds, who have suffered much from the Turkish state's harsh policies.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Links for the past few days

Before the trip of president Obama to the Holy Land Rashid Khalidi wrote an important OpEd in The New York Times
Is Any Hope Left for Mideast Peace?

The Guardian featured a video about developments in Jerusalem's neighbourhood Sheikh Jarrah:
My Neighbourhood, A Palestinian Boy's View of Israeli Settlements

In Al-Ahram Online an article about new archeological discoveries, this time concerning the Hyksos: 
Hyksos buildings are the latest ancient discovery in Tel Habuwa

Egypt Independent had a meeting - there he is again - with professor Rashid Khalidi  on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. Khalidi talks about the effects of literally taking the Iraqi state apart.

The blog Syria Comment features an interesting discussion between Koert Debeuff  and Aron Lund (one of the most knowledgeable men at present when it comes down to Syria) about the existence of the FSA. Debeuff says 'the' Free Syrian Army exists as such, Lund says it does not.   

The same blog: background of the new 'provisional' prime minister of the Syrian opposition, Ghasssan Hitto. I would not put my money on this man.    

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Strikes halt production in Egyptian city Mahalla

The headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Moqattam quarter of Cairo was stormed last Saturday by protesters against the rule of the Brotherhood. Several people got wounded. Egypt Independent reports that 15 people have been arrested  (Photo Al-Masry al-Youm).

Intensive strikes and protests against Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi completely halted traffic in the industrial city of Mahalla in the Nile Delta on Monday. Aswat Masriya, a news portal affiliated to Thompson Reuters Foundation, reported that thousands of students embarked on marches, calling for the ouster of the incumbent regime and the rule of the "Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood." The Brotherhood is believed by many of the opposition to be the actual ruling body. Opponents argue that the group's Supreme Guide, Mohamed Badie, is the country's de facto ruler. Protests against both men and the powerful Islamist group caused the closure of around 1,300 factories. Students also failed to reach their schools and universities, while shops also were shut down due to the protests and the ensuing traffic problems. Aswat Masriya also reported that the entrances and exits of the city were blocked off, and public transportation was halted as a result. Angry protesters prevented buses from moving. According to Egyptian television, bus drivers and taxi drivers went on strike in protest at recurrent shortages of diesel fuel. They called for stepped up security at petrol stations, after a group of thugs reportedly stole fuel supplies.

In the meantime Egyptian bakers threaten to go on strike as well. Their association, representing 25.000 private bakers, initially wanted to strike in January, but postponed that till mid March in order to give the govenment more time to meet their demands. They say the government owes them 400 million Egyptian pounds ($59 million) in incentives due for producing state-subsidised bread for the poor. The state has long helped fund bread production, with the cheapest loaves selling for 5 piastres, or less than 1 U.S. cent. Minister of Supply and Internal Trade Bassem Oudasaid the bakers will face legal action if they carry out their threat to strike. The prospect of a bakers' strike has compounded a sense of economic crisis in a country where a drop in foreign currency reserves has already caused fuel shortages and raised the potential for more social unrest. Ouda told Egypt state TV that a Supreme Constitutional Court ruling gave the ministry the power to close indefinitely bakeries that halt production and refer their owners to the criminal court. “If it happens that they undertake this type of irresponsible step and halt production in 100 or 1,000 bakeries, we are ready with an emergency plan,” Ouda said on Monday.

Hitto elected 'provisonal' prime minister of Syrian opposition

Syrian opposition elects Ghassan Hitto PM of interim govt
Hitto talks to the press. (Xinhua)

The opposition Syrian National Coalition chose Western-educated former businessman Ghassan Hitto as provisional prime minister in a vote on Tuesday at a meeting in Istanbul. Several senior coalition members, including tribal leader Ahmad Jarba and veteran opposition campaigners Walid al-Bunni and Kamal al-Labwani withdrew from the session before the vote to protest what they described as a hasty foreign-backed push to chose Hitto. Two eralier atamopts to elect a prime minister failed.
Hitto, who according to a Reuters witness received 35 votes of around 50 cast by coalition members, will be in charge of forming a government to fill a power vacuum in Syria arising from a two-year-long revolt against President Bashar al-Assad. Hitto, who has a grade in computer science,  has been living in the US for a long time.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Russell Tribunal launches call to bring Israel in front of International Criminal Court

Angela Davis speaks during the closing session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine in Brussels. 

The Russell Tribunal on Palestine ends its 4-year examination of third party complicity in Israeli violations of International Law.
The Tribunal concludes that it will support all initiatives from civil society and international organisations aimed at bringing Israel in front of the International Criminal Court. It calls for the ICC to recognise Palestinian jurisdiction and for the organisation of a special session of the United Nations General Assembly on Israeli Apartheid.
Other key Recommendations issued by the Tribunal include:
  • A reconstitution of the United Nations Special Committee on Apartheid
  • Further criminal investigations of corporations aiding and abetting Israeli violations such as the police raid on the Dutch construction equipment company Riwal [1]
  • The establishment of an international committee of former Political Prisoners to campaign on Prisoner issues
  • To support civil society in using the tribunal’s findings to undertake direct actions aimed at confronting state, institutional and corporate complicity with Israel’s crimes.
Jury member Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters said: “The Russell Tribunal is a glimmering light at the end of the tunnel. If you think that what it says is wrong, go to Palestine, go to the refugee camps and judge for yourself. Until then, you’re only speaking of your own prejudices. I feel I can speak because I have witnessed the horror of Israeli Apartheid, I am speaking from personal experience”.

Civil rights activist Angela Davis, also a member of the jury, said: “As we originally drew inspiration from English philosopher Bertrand Russell, we now follow in the footsteps of the late Stéphane Hessel, who combined resistance with integrity, solidarity and advocacy. We have all become advocates for Palestinian and universal human rights from the grassroots to the highest levels”.
Pierre Galland, General Co-ordinator of the RToP said:
“This closing session does not represent the end of our activities, but a new beginning. In the future, the people’s court will work to check that its recommendations and conclusions are integrated into advocacy, activism and legal claims”.
Fadwa Barghouti echoed the words of her husband Parliamentarian Marwan Barghouti, writing from prison where he is serving five life sentences for resisting Occupation: “I salute the fighter, the diplomat, the writer, who is supporting our struggle. And those rising up in the Arab world against tyranny – their dream has filled us with hope. The Russell Tribunal is a key tool in supporting is in reaching our goal of Justice and Peace based on International Law”.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Egyptian civilians hang two thieves

(AP) — Egyptian security officials say vigilantes beat two alleged thieves, stripped them half-naked and then hung them in public in a small Nile Delta town. Both the men died. The officials say the two men had stolen a rickshaw from a town in the province of Gharbiya. Angry residents in the town of Samanod beat the two suspects and hung them from a tree in a bus station on Sunday. officials say residents who tried to help free the two men were pushed back by others in a crowd. Thousands of Egyptian policemen are on strike, prompting the attorney general last week to release a statement encouraging citizen arrests. Similar attacks have happened elsewhere in Egypt, where security has deteriorated since the uprising two years ago.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Does the FSA exist?

 Aron Lund on Syria Comment
Is the FSA losing influence in Syria? How many people are in the FSA? Is the FSA receiving enough guns from the West, or too many? Will the FSA participate in elections after the fall of Bahar el-Assad? What is the ideology of the FSA? What’s the FSA’s view of Israel? Is Jabhat el-Nosra now bigger than the FSA? What does the FSA think about the Kurds? Who is the leader of the FSA? How much control does the central command of the FSA really have over their fighters?
All these and similar questions keep popping up in news articles and op-ed chinstrokers in the Western media, and in much of the Arabic media too.
They all deal with important issues, but they disregard an important fact: the FSA doesn’t really exist.
All this said, I wish that the FSA did exist.
A unified rebel leadership would spare Syria much of the bloodshed that lies ahead. Not just because an organized rebel army would pack more of a punch in the struggle against Bashar el-Assad’s fascist dictatorship, and could put a leash on the most unpleasant salafi extremist factions. But also – and this matters a lot more than the fate of either Assad or al-Qaida – because only a functioning opposition leadership will be able to minimize the period of Lebanon-style armed anarchy and sectarian bloodshed that lies ahead for Syria, and help reestablish a central government when Assad’s is gone for good.
Unfortunately, my mere wishing won’t make it so. But neither will sloppy and distorted news reporting.

Read the whole article here

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Saudi Arabia as yet executes seven young men in spite of international protests

Reuters reports:
Saudi Arabia on Wednesday executed seven men for armed robbery, the Interior Ministry said, despite an appeal for clemency by United Nations human rights investigators.The seven were sentenced to death in 2009 for crimes committed in 2005 and 2006 when human rights groups said some were younger than 18.
Human rights activists in Saudi Arabia said the seven were executed by firing squad.
The men, from Asir Province in the south of Saudi Arabia, had been due to die last week but were granted a stay of execution while authorities reviewed their case. They were convicted of theft, including armed robbery, the Interior Ministry said. Human rights group Amnesty International and the mens' families have said the robberies included one at a jewellery store. Relatives of the men told Reuters last week they had been forced to confess to unsolved crimes in the district, in addition to the armed robbery they had carried out.
Amnesty said the men later retracted a confession which they said had been obtained through torture, without giving details of the confession. Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter, denies it uses torture.
Human rights activists in Saudi Arabia, Washington's closest Gulf ally, said the seven were executed by firing squad.
"The charges against all seven persons were allegedly fabricated and all seven were convicted following unfair trials," the U.N. experts said in a statement on Tuesday.
In January, King Abdullah said he had full confidence in the kingdom's justice system after the United Nations voiced concern over the trial of a Sri Lankan woman who had been executed.
The Interior Ministry named the seven men as Sarhan al-Mushaikh, Saeed al-Amri, Ali al-Shehri, Nasser al-Qahtani, Saeed al-Shahrani, Abdulaziz al-Amri and Ali al-Qahtani and said they were part of a gang responsible for crimes including armed robbery and theft.
A group of relatives and friends of the men went to the royal court last week to seek a retrial or pardon from the king, arguing they had been denied proper access to legal representation and their crime did not warrant execution.
The men were granted a stay of execution but were executed eight days later. They were shot at 6 a.m. (0300 GMT) on Wednesday in Abha, the capital of Asir, one of the least developed parts of the country.
AFP adds: 
Also on Wednesday, authorities executed another national, Fada al-Subaie in the southwestern Mecca region, after he was convicted of murdering a fellow Saudi, SPA reported. It did not specify the method of his execution.
Wednesday’s executions bring to 26 the number of people put to death in Saudi Arabia so far this year.
In 2012, the kingdom executed 76 people, according to an AFP tally based on official figures. The US-based Human Rights Watch put the number at 69.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Syrian opposition had to postpone formation of provisional government

Syria's opposition has postponed a meeting to form a provisional government, in the latest setback to opposition efforts to create an administration to take over if President Bashar al-Assad is ousted, coalition sources said on Sunday.
The Syrian National Coalition meeting to elect a provisional prime minister, which was due to be held on March 12 after being postponed once already, has been rescheduled for March 20, but it was uncertain it would be held even then, the sources said.
"We cannot afford a split over this issue any more. The revolution was not born chaotic," said coalition member Kamal al-Labwani, a veteran opposition figure who spent nine years as a political prisoner after Assad took over from his father in 2000.
Labwani said the coalition was split in two over the merits of forming government, with some preferring to wait to see if U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi's efforts to form a transitional government as part of a political compromise succeed.
Other wanted to form a government immediately to pre-empt any deal that could see Assad remaining in power, Labwani said.

'Iron Dome system intercepted no more than 5%'

An Israeli missile is launched from the Iron Dome defence missile system,
The Iron Dome (AFP)

"Iron Dome’s intercept rate, defined as destruction of the rocket's warhead, was relatively low, perhaps as low as 5%, but could well be lower."
This astonishing figure, which casts a shadow of doubt on the figures published by the Israel Defense Forces regarding the Iron Dome missile defense system, was suggested by Professor Theodore Postol, a world-renowned scientist and expert in missile defense.
Postol, and two other rocket scientists, Dr. Mordechai Shefer, formerly of Rafael, and D., a scientist who until recently worked for Raytheon, the manufacturer of PATRIOT missiles, investigated the performance of Iron Dome during Operation Pillar of Defense and all reached similar conclusions: Iron Dome’s rate of success did not come close to the figure of 84% as reported by the IDF. According to the three scientists, who conducted their research separately by analyzing dozens of videos filmed during the operation, most of the explosions which look as if they were successful interceptions, are actually just the self-destruction of the Iron Dome’s own missiles.
 The scientists also discovered that 3,200 civilian damage reports were filed for destruction caused by incoming rockets. It is impossible, claim the scientists, that the 58 rockets that weren’t intercepted – the number reported by the IDF – could have caused damage on such a large scale. Also, Israel Police reported that it dealt with 109 cases of rockets falling in populated areas, which is almost double the figure reported by the IDF.
 While it is difficult to stomach such harsh criticism of the army’s figures, the scientists’ claims should not be ignored without remembering the aftermath of the Gulf War. Initial reports following that conflict claimed a 96% rate of success for Patriot missiles. Later, an extensive study carried out by Professor Postol revealed that the rate of success was actually zero.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Riots in Cairo and Pot Said after new verdict in football stampede case

Port Said
The Port Said Criminal Court in action on 9 March. For security reasons it held its session in Cairo. (Reuters).

Riots broke out in Cairo and Port Said on Saturday  after a Port Said Criminal Court handed down a verdict on Saturday in last year's football stampede that killed more than 70 people. In Cairo one man died of tear gas inhalation and angry supporters of the football club Ahly set fire to the building of the Egyptian Football Association (EPA) and the Police Club. 
 The court upheld the 21 death sentences that had been handed down on 26 January. Furthermore five defendants received life sentences, two policemen, former Port Said security director Essam Samak and the head of the Port Said water bodies security department, Mohamed Saad, both received 15 years. Eight others got 15 years, six people received 10 year sentences, two got five years and one got a one year sentence. Twenty eight defendants were acquitted, among them seven other police officers. They include the former head of Port Said police investigation department, Mostafa Razaz, former head of the Central Security Forces in the Suez Canal area, Abdel-Aziz Sami, and former head of Port Said national security directorate, Bahy El-Din Zaghloul.
The acquittal of seven police officers and the confirmation of the earlier death aroused anger. Immediately after the sentences were handed down,angry Ahlawy Ultras Ahlawy started attacking the EFA and the Gezira Police Club. According to a top official at the Egyptian Football Association (EFA), all the original trophies won by Egypt in various football competitions were stolen. After that the Ultras set fire the EFA's building in Gezira. The building was damaged and all records of the EFA got lost.
Lateron during further clashes in Cairo a 36-yaer old man died in hospital of respiratory problems after an overdose of tear gas.
In Port Said protesters stopped ferries from Port Said to Port Fouad. Reuters reported that they also untied moored speedboats used to supply shipping on the Suez Canal. Egypt's navy reinforced its presence throughout the Suez Canal after the protests.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Court decision postpones Egyptian general elections

An Egyptian court threw the timetable for parliamentary elections into confusion on Wednesday, ordering the cancellation of President Mohamed Mursi's decree calling the vote and forcing a likely delay to polls due to start in April.
The Administrative Court's ruling deepened Egypt's political uncertainty at a time of social unrest and economic crisis, with the nation's foreign currency reserves at critically low levels and the budget deficit soaring.The court said it had referred Egypt's amended electoral law, under which the lower house polls are due to be held, to the Supreme Constitutional Court for review.
Mursi's office said that it respected the court's decision, which was handed down as the government says it wants to resume talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a $4.8 billion loan to shore up Egypt's finances.A statement issued by Mursi's office said the presidency respected the court's decision, adding that it was thereby "upholding the value of the rule of law and the constitution and implementing the principle of the separation of powers".
The court made its ruling on technical grounds, saying in a statement that the Shura Council, Egypt's upper house of parliament, had not returned the amended electoral law to the Supreme Constitutional Court for final review before passing it.
The IMF is unlikely to want to grant a loan while there remains significant upheaval and lack of any form of political consensus, said Jason Tuvey, Assistant Economist at Capital Economics in London. "This uncertainty will further weigh on the Egyptian economy, which is already very weak, and possibly lead to further capital flight and greater pressure on the pound."

Monday, March 4, 2013

Planned execution in Saudi Arabia of seven young men postponed

 In October 2011 eight men from Bangladesh were beheaded in Saudi Arabia for an armed robbery of a warehouse. 

Update - Seven men sentenced to death for crimes committed whilst underage, have had their executions postponed by Saudi Arabia’s royal family. Their cases are being reviewed following claims the men were tortured, threatened and their trial was unfair.
Saudi King Abdullah’s eldest son, Prince Faisal bin Abdel Aziz,thwe gorvernor of poor southern province of Asir the placer wre the seven roiginate fromç seems to have ordered a one-month postponement on the executions that were scheduled for Tuesday. He also promised a new investigation and a new trial to be carried out, one of 200 relatives and friends of the young men who gathered near the royal court told Reuters.
The seven men were facing a firing squad, with one to be publicly crucified for three days thereafter.
According to a Saudi security official cited by AP, King Abdullah met with families of the seven accused on Sunday and later said he would review the sentences.
The group of seven men was arrested as part of 23-member ring for stealing from jewelry stores in 2004 and 2005 and has spent eight years in custody.
Saudi Arabia is scheduled to execute seven men on Tuesday for crimes committed when they were juveniles aged under 18, the British-based rights group Amnesty International said.
The seven were sentenced to death in 2009 for an armed robbery in 2006, but Amnesty quoted the men as saying they were tortured into confessions. It said King Abdullah ratified their sentences in February.
"They have since said they were severely beaten, denied food and water, deprived of sleep, forced to remain standing for 24 hours and then forced to sign 'confessions'," said Amnesty.
The last time the kingdom executed so many people at once was in October 2011, when eight Bangladeshi men were put to death for an armed robbery in which a guard was killed. Saudi Arabia has executed 17 people so far this year, said Amnesty, compared to 82 in 2011 and a similar number last year.
The seven are from the southern province of Asir, one of the least developed in the kingdom.

At least four killed during renewed clashes in Port Said

Thousands during funeral of Port Said victims, 27 January 2013. Violent clashes erupted in Port Said following verdict of Port Said massacre.
 Dozens of protesters attacked the Port Said Security Directorate with Molotov cocktails Sunday, setting the directorate on fire and completely destroying it, after the authorities decided to transfer 39 prisoners charged with involvement in last year's Port Said stadium disaster from the Suez canal city to Wadi Natroun jail in Egypt's Beheira governorate. The ministry of health, which has been documenting casualties' toll throughout the day, said that four people were killed during the incidents and that at least 39 other people were injured by gunshots throughout the day including 7 army and CSF personnel. All in all some 404 people were injured in clashes between police and protesters near the security directorate, according to the health ministry, at least 260 of which suffered teargas inhalation during the clashes.

Anger has continued to brew in Port Said more than a month after fierce fighting broke out in the Suez Canal city after a court sentenced 21 people to death over violence at a football match last year. About 40 people died in the post-verdict clashes between protesters and security forces so far.
In last year's violence at least 72 people died — mostly supporters of Cairo’s Ahly team — when Masry team fans stormed the pitch, attacking Ahly fans. Many observers have also blamed security forces for not stopping the violence. The Port Said Criminal Court is set to convene for a related case over the football violence on 9 March.