Claim: A viral tweet stating that 20 Nigerians have been publicly executed in Saudi Arabia after a recent arrest for drug trafficking.
Verdict: Misleading. Although the video appears real, our findings show it has been online since 2015. In addition to that, there is no evidence that the offenders are Nigerians.
Perceived by many to be brutal, capital punishment is known to be the highest form of retribution that an offender could receive.
Just recently, PSAFLIVE, a South African-based “current affairs channel,” tweeted a claim that 20 Nigerians have been publicly executed in Saudi Arabia for drug trafficking. Used to further this narrative is the screenshot of a video showing some men clad in Thawb (a traditional attire worn by Arab men), as well as a crowd similarly dressed.
“…20 Nigerian flatheads met their makers after they were arrested for drug trafficking and drug trade,” the tweet reads in part.
“NOTE: We are unable to tweet the video due to its graphic nature,” it added.
Since posting, this tweet has been liked 2,911 and retweeted by 1,150 users. Replying to the post, a user, @ismailsalajee, uploaded the video.
This clip shows three blindfolded men on their knees with their hands tied to their backs. Behind them are uniformed police officers. Accompanied by screams from spectators who stand at a distance, an executioner, clad in traditional attire, beheads the offenders with a sword.
While a few doubted the authenticity of this event, some believed it to be true. Among them is @NicolMaimela, who supports the punishment. He commented: “I do agree, drug dealers deserve this.”
However, unlike him, @Speaktruth_x, another user, perceived this as “fake news.”
Due to the increasing engagement that this post has attracted and its potential harm, DUBAWA has decided to fact-check it.
We conducted a reverse image search on the claim. This service allows users “to search for images using a picture as the starting point, rather than a written or spoken search query.”
Multiple results from this action revealed that the footage had been uploaded on the internet since 2015, over seven years ago.
Also, according to Middle East Eye, an “independently funded digital news organisation” that reports happenings from the Middle East and North Africa, this video was allegedly uploaded on YouTube by Ali Dubaisy, a Germany-based Saudi activist. It was said to have been discreetly obtained as it is illegal for public executions to be filmed.
Dubaisy told Middle East Eye that he obtained the footage from a tourist in the Red Sea City of Jeddah who filmed it with a mobile phone.
“Dubaisy said he was not aware when the execution of the three men took place, but he said it was ‘recently’. The men’s identity and the reason for their execution is not known,” the report reads in part.
In addition to this news, other search results on YouTube showed that this footage was leaked in 2015. Aside from that, nothing can identify the decapitated men as Nigerians.
A significant trend we observed about the Twitter-verified account that published the claim is its manner of operation. Its underlying mission seems to be an advertisement. It does that by firstly making posts that would drive engagements, after which it later attaches the products it wants to advertise under the thread.
This claim emanated from an old video uploaded on the internet in 2015. Also, no proof explicitly identifies the subjects as Nigerians. The claim is misleading.