An Italian stewardess is apparently threatened with the death penalty in Saudi Arabia (symbolic image). © agefotostock/Imago
A stewardess from Italy was in Saudi Arabia on business. Now she is in prison for drug possession. Drug offenses are punishable by death in the country.
Riyadh – It's probably every traveler's nightmare: An Italian stewardess from Treviso (Italy) was in Saudi Arabia on business in May, now she is in prison. The authorities accuse the 23-year-old of illegal drug possession. The verdict has not yet been decided, but Sharia law applies in the Islamic-conservative country.
Italian stewardess arrested for alleged joint in bra in Saudi Arabia
The Italian flight attendant worked for the Lithuanian airline Avion Express. According to the Italian public broadcaster RaiNews, the 23-year-old was picked up by the Arab police when she landed in the port city of Jeddah and taken to prison. Other colleagues of the airline were also affected, it said. It was a drug raid.
Other media, such as the Italian daily Corriere del Veneto, reported that the arrest of the police took place at a garden party where the stewardess was visiting. According to the report, plainclothes police officers surrounded those present, searched the young woman and allegedly found a joint in her bra. Initially, she had assumed a robbery, the flight attendant told the Italian consul. It was only when she was taken to the police station that she realized that it was an arrest. Saudi Arabia has a strict drug policy, in some cases even the death penalty. According to Amnesty International, the country has already executed 2022 people for drug-related offences since 20.
Stewardess maintains her innocence: Italian Foreign Ministry negotiates release
The young woman asserts that she is innocent and that she has not consumed drugs or alcohol. According to Corriere del Veneto, she signed a document in Arabic, the content of which she did not understand. The mother of the flight attendant spoke of a mistake in view of the arrest. "My daughter has never taken drugs, this joint certainly did not belong to her, she knows the very strict laws of Saudi Arabia very well." The stewardess has no entries in the police clearance certificate, neither in Italy nor abroad, it said, however, in the Rai report. According to Corriere, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Italy is currently negotiating with authorities in Saudi Arabia for the release of the stewardess.
Executions in Saudi Arabia currently at the highest level
According to the human rights organization Amnesty International, the number of death penalties used reached an all-time high. Worldwide, 2022 executions were officially reported in 883, but the number of unreported cases is probably much higher. In Saudi Arabia, the number tripled to 196 in 2022 from 65 in 2021. In March last year, the absolute monarchy had 81 people executed in a single day. Observers saw it as the largest mass execution in Saudi Arabia's recent history.
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Some of the executions are public and are also carried out by beheading by sword or shootings. According to information from Der Spiegel, Saudi Arabia abolished the death penalty for drug offenses in 2018 as part of a comprehensive reform. However, the Federal Foreign Office also warns in 2023: "Drug and alcohol possession are punishable by law, and the death penalty can be imposed for drug offences."