Amnesty International has called on the King of Saudi Arabia to halt the execution of a Lebanese national, who was sentenced to death for charges relating to “sorcery.”

Ali Hussain Sibat is the former host of a popular call-in talk show on the radio station Sheherazade in Beirut, where he would predict the future and offer advice to his audience. One report said “he gave counsel and encouragement to troubled callers by “predicting” good things would happen to them.” He was arrested by the Mutawa’een (religious police) in May 2008 while he was in Saudi Arabia to perform a form of Muslim pilgrimage, the ‘umra. Last week his appeal was denied and he could be executed at any time.

Amnesty International called on the authorities to release Ali Hussain Sibat and another unidentified man immediately and unconditionally if they have been convicted solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression. Information is also available at CNN. NPR reports that sorcery charges are on the rise in Saudi Arabia.

This is only one example of the epidemic of witchcraft and sorcery prosecutions and murders of witches taking place around the world. It has become so rampant that the United Nations Human Rights Council is finally seeking to do something about it. According to the International Humanist and Ethical Union, “Accusations of witchcraft [in Africa], targeting mainly the old, the weak and the most disadvantaged in society is a world-wide scourge. And horrific though the actual practice of witchcraft may be [in some cases children are killed for their body parts for use in spells] the number of these victims is exceeded many-fold by the number of children tortured and killed after having been falsely accused of being witches. The problem is indeed worldwide. We heard at a seminar organized by the High Commission for Human Rights of abuse of those accused of witchcraft from Nepal to Tanzania. And from Papua/New Guinea to the United Kingdom. The UN High Commission for Refugees has published a report highlighting the scale of the problem in refugee camps.”

In Nigeria it was found that unscrupulous pastors, many linked to Pentecostal churches, have a lucrative trade in making unfounded accusations of witchcraft against young children and then agreeing to “cure” the witches for a substantial fee.  In her book ‘Unveiling the Mysteries of Witchcraft,’ Helen Ukpabio, the leader of Liberty Foundation Gospel Ministries, states that a child under the age of two that cries at night and has poor health is ‘an agent of Satan’. More information at MSNBC.