Saudi man to be beheaded for drifting fatalities

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Saudi drifting accident leads to harsh penalties. Image: China Shop Bull . Tim Shapcott . Portishead . UK/Flickr/CC BY-ND

A Saudi Arabian would-be stunt driver who killed two men in a horrific drifting accident has been sentenced to death. He is to be publicly beheaded as a warning to others.

Restricted entertainment options

The man had been practicing the strange sport of “drifting,” popular with bored men in a nation that restricts so many forms of entertainment. While making his car “drift” at high speeds, the man lost control of and skidded into a crowd of men, killing two of them.


Reuters quoted a report of the event from the Saudi newspaper Al Watan:

“The court of Onaiza handed down a sentence to kill the drifter ‘Mutannish’ by beheading as punishment for his heinous deed and to deter others who tamper with the nation’s security.”

The designation “Mutannish” is an Arabic word meaning “he who ignores.” The middle-aged driver in the fatal incident fled the scene of the accident, but was later tracked down and apprehended by the police.

No date has yet been set for the driver’s public execution.

Practice of drifting

Drifting is a driving style in which the motorist intentionally over-steers, causing a reduction in traction, making the car spin, slide and sometimes travel backwards and sideways. It was popularized in the All Japan Touring Car Championship races of the 1970s, as a racing technique to maintain high speeds through sharp turns..

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In Saudi Arabia the reckless and dangerous sport is called “Hagwalah.” It is becoming an increasingly popular practice.

A message to drifters?

In a similar case in 2005, a Saudi Arabian naval officer killed three young people in a similar drifting stunt. He was originally sentenced to beheading, but later had his sentence commuted to 3,000 lashes and 20 years in prison. However, with the rising popularity of the so-called sport, many in the land see the harsher sentence as an indication that Saudi authorities are fed up with the practice and are cracking down in order to send a warning to others.

Executions common

On the other hand, execution is not particularly uncommon in the Middle Eastern nation. Last year, according to Amnesty International, 82 people were executed in Saudi Arabia. Most of them were executed by public beheading.


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