A Lebanese television host arrested in 2008 while on pilgrimage to Mecca and sentenced to death for sorcery had his death sentence stayed by a Saudi court on Friday, April 2, 2010: The day he was to be executed.
However, he did not received a commutation or reprieve merely a stay.
For years Ali Hossein Sabat hosted a program on satellite television. broadcasting from Lebanon he predicted the future and gave viewers advice, purportedly based on his psychic powers. He was neither more nor less than the North American phenom the 'Amazing Kreskin' or Israeli, Uri Geller.
A Shiite Muslim, in 2008 he undertook the haj: "the fifth pillar of Islam is a pilgrimage to Mecca during the month of Dhu al-Hijja; at least once in a lifetime a Muslim is expected to make a religious journey to Mecca and the Kaaba." While in Saudi Arabia he was arrested by that country's religious police, the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.
According to Amnesty International Mr. Sabat was fooled into making a 'confession:
After he was arrested, 'Ali Hussain Sibat's interrogators told him to write down what he did for a living, reassuring him that, if he did so, he would be allowed to go home after a few weeks.
This document was presented in court as a "confession" and used to convict him.
In January 2010, the Court of Appeal in Makkah accepted an appeal against his death sentence, on grounds that it was a premature verdict, adding "that all allegations made against 'Ali Hussain Sibat had to be verified, and that if he had really committed the crime he should be asked to repent."
But on March 10, a court in Medina upheld the death sentence. The judges said that he must be executed because he had practised “sorcery” publicly for several years before millions of viewers and that his actions “made him an infidel”.
On Friday, April 2, The Los Angeles Times offered another take on the case. They cited a Lebanese legal expert who asked to remain anonymous, suggesting that the sentence was actually a domestic political power play. She "described the case against Sabat as a 'muscle show' by conservatives who may be seeking to embarrass reformist leaders such as King Abdullah."