RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- Saudi Arabia executed four people from the same family Monday for attempting to smuggle "large quantities" of hashish into the kingdom, officials and a rights group said.
The Interior Ministry said they were executed in southern Najran province near Yemen after they were found guilty by three courts, including an appeals court.
An Associated Press tally shows their deaths bring to 32 the number of people executed this year in the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia follows a strict interpretation of Islamic law and applies the death penalty on a number of crimes, such as murder, rape and drug smuggling. Though not common, crimes of apostasy and witchcraft can carry death sentences.
Amnesty International urged Saudi authorities to halt what it said is a "disturbing" surge in executions, with 17 people executed in the past two weeks. The group said the four men executed Monday were two sets of brothers from the same family.
The rights group said the four were put to death despite desperate last-minute efforts from family members to alert Amnesty International and others to allegations the men had also been tortured during interrogation, including with beatings and sleep deprivation, in order to extract confessions used against them in trial.
Amnesty International said it tried to seek further information on the case, but within hours their team in Saudi Arabia was informed that the family of the four men had received a phone call from Interior Ministry officials warning them to stop contacting the rights group.
In a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency, the Interior Ministry said King Abdullah is "keen on combating narcotics due to their great harm to individuals and the society." Saudi Arabia warns all visitors on its visa forms that drug trafficking is a crime punishable by execution.