First beheading for new Saudi king Salman: Moussa al-Zahrani executed in Jeddah
Saudi Arabia has executed a man convicted of raping several girls in a case that has captured the kingdom's attention and marks the first beheading carried out under newly-enthroned King Salman.
Moussa al-Zahrani was executed in the city of Jeddah.
A statement from the Saudi interior ministry said al-Zahrani was convicted of luring under-age girls, intoxicating them, forcing them to watch pornographic videos and then physically and sexually assaulting them.
His alleged victims were children assaulted in 2011 in a string of attacks in Jeddah.
The case has caused a stir on social media - unusual in Saudi Arabia for cases of violent crimes - in part because al-Zahrani claimed his innocence throughout the trial and at two later appeals.
Last year, al-Zahrani appealed in a 20-minute video for Saudi King Abdullah, who died on Friday, to intervene.
In the widely-viewed video, the 45-year-old Arabic teacher claimed he was framed by police and that a man - a neighbour of 10 years - who accused him of molesting his daughter was also a police investigator in the case.
An Arabic hashtag on Twitter, "We are all Moussa al-Zahrani", garnered thousands of comments by Saudis, with conflicting opinions over the case.
Al-Zahrani's relatives appeared on Saudi talk shows, saying the case was riddled with inconsistencies and that the judiciary did not weigh all the evidence.
They claimed a medical report found the investigator's 10-year-old daughter had not been assaulted and that several cases of assault against young girls took place in Jeddah while al-Zahrani was already jailed.
His brother, Hassan al-Zahrani, said after the execution that his brother, a father of six, could not have committed the crimes he was convicted of.
Saudi Arabia, which has one of the highest execution rates in the world, follows a strict interpretation of Islamic law and applies the death penalty for crimes such as murder, rape and witchcraft.