KUWAIT CITY â€” Kuwait hanged seven prisoners in a mass execution on Wednesday, including a royal family member and a woman convicted of killing 58 women and children when she set fire to a wedding tent â€” the first death sentences carried out in several years in the oil-rich emirate.
Those executed included a Bangladeshi, a Filipina, an Ethiopian, two Kuwaitis and two Egyptians, according to a statement carried on the state-run KUNA news agency.
KUNA said that all had been convicted of murder except the Bangladeshi man, who was convicted of rape, kidnapping and theft.
Kuwait’s ruler, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, authorized the executions, which were carried out in the morning in the country’s central prison.
The royal was identified as Faisal Abdullah Al Jaber Al Sabah, who killed his nephew Basil Al Sabah in 2010.
Executions of royals in Gulf Arab countries are rare but do happen. In October, Saudi Arabia executed a prince who fatally shot another man in a melee.
The second Kuwaiti national executed on Wednesday was Nasra al-Enezi. She was convicted of setting fire to a wedding tent in 2009 after her husband took a second wife.
The blaze killed 58 women and children, her lawyer Zaid al-Khabbaz said. The Bedouin-style tent, put up so women attending could be uncovered for the event, had only one entrance. Dozens of others were injured in a stampede during the fire, which later led Kuwait to ban the tents.
The lawyer said he last spoke to his client a month ago.
“She sounded very fragile, very shaken, more than any other time,” al-Khabbaz told The Associated Press. “It’s impossible to say that she intended to kill all those women and children. … It was a tragedy.”
In the Philippines, Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose identified the Filipina hanged as Jakatia Pawa, who was convicted of killing her employer’s daughter.
Pawa’s brother, Air Force Lt. Col. Gary Pawa, said his sister called early morning Wednesday, crying as she informed him of her scheduled execution.
“My sister’s only request was for us to take care of her two children,” he said.
Ernesto Abella, a spokesman for Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, said in a statement that the authorities used “all efforts to preserve her life, including diplomatic means and appeals for compassion.”
“Execution, however, could no longer be forestalled under Kuwaiti laws,” he said. “We pray for her and her bereaved family.”
Kuwait is home to 250,000 Filipino workers, with about 158,000 of them working as domestic helpers, Philippine ambassador to Kuwait Rene Villa said.
Executions are fairly rare in Kuwait, which has the world’s sixth-largest oil reserves. The last were carried out in 2013, when a Pakistani, a Saudi and a “Bidoon” â€” a name used in the emirate for people without citizenship â€” were hung.
Wednesday’s executions drew immediate criticism from Amnesty International, which opposes the death penalty.
The mass execution “is a shocking and deeply regrettable step backward for Kuwait,” Amnesty official Samah Hadid said in a statement. “By choosing to resume executions now, the Kuwaiti authorities have displayed a wanton disregard for the right to life and
It’s not clear what sparked the timing of the executions. However, it comes 10 days after Bahrain announced it put three men to death in its first executions since 2010.
Associated Press writers Teresa Cerojano in Manila, Philippines, and Jon Gambrell, Adam Schreck and Malak Harb in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.
Hussain Al-Qatari, The Associated Press