The sorcerer’s death sentence

Ali Hussain Sibat is a Saudi TV psychic. He claims to practice black magic with the help of Satan and Jinn. He says they allow him to see into the future.

I usually have no sympathy for those who claim they can predict future events. But I’ve made and exception for Sibat. In fact, I feel awful for the guy. Why? Because a Saudi Arabian court just sentenced him to death for the crime of “sorcery.”

Said the court, "All evidence proved that he was practicing black magic.”

That’s not a miscarriage of justice so much as it’s an abortion of the concept of “evidence.”

Back in law school, I made a lot of (valid) complaints about the American legal system. As the fine men and women at The Innocence Project remind us, our legal system is far from perfect. But when we hear about something like Sibat’s case, it reminds us of how great the American legal system is on the whole. Flawed, but great—especially by comparison.

Back to Sibat: As a magician, it’s scary to know that in some parts of the world, my hobby is looked at as a capital crime. As a skeptic, I see the tragic irony of Sibat’s conviction: the guy isn’t a sorcerer. He, like all people who claim to be psychic, is a fraud. (Sorcerers exist only in movies, in books, and on Trapper Keepers.) Fraud might be a crime, but not one punishable by death or anything close to it.


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