Report: Saudis Sent 1,200 Death-Row Inmates to Syria to Join Rebels

Offered Detainees Freedom, Stipends for Families

According to reports from the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA), a Syriac Christian-run media outlet, the Saudi Arabian government sent over 1,200 death-row inmates to Syria to join the ongoing civil war on the side of the rebellion.

The AINA report cites a leaked memo from the Interior Ministry as saying the 1,239 inmates were all sentenced to “execution by sword” for various crimes, and were given full pardons, as well as stipends for their families.

An unnamed Iraqi MP confirmed knowledge of the program, and said that Saudi Arabia had been forced to end the policy after Russia threatened to bring the issue to the attention of the United Nations.

The quiet deal between Russia and Saudi Arabia was that the influx of inmates would end and Russia would keep the matter from becoming public knowledge. Now that the information is out there, it will be interesting to see how Russia and Saudi Arabia react.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.