Tuesday 22 October 2019

Saudi Arabia seeks to execute teenager for taking part in democracy protest at age 10

Murtaja Qureiris
Murtaja Qureiris

Tom Embury-Dennis

Saudi Arabia is seeking to execute a teenager who has been imprisoned ever since his arrest as a 13-year-old, human rights experts have said.

Murtaja Qureiris, now 18, is facing the death penalty - possibly by crucifixion - over charges including anti-government protests, joining a "terrorist organisation", firing at security forces and making Molotov cocktails which were later thrown at a police station.

The 18-year-old denies the charges, CNN has reported, claiming confessions which the prosecution has relied on were obtained under duress. Amnesty International said it had confirmed the country's public prosecutor was seeking the death penalty for offences dating back to when Mr Qureiris was just 10 years old.

"There should be no doubt that the Saudi Arabian authorities are ready to go to any length to crack down on dissent against their own citizens, including by resorting to the death penalty for men who were merely boys at the time of their arrest," said Amnesty's Middle East research director, Lynn Maalouf.

"It is appalling that Murtaja Qureiris is facing execution for offences that include taking part in protests while he was just 10 years old."

Mr Qureiris, a member of Saudi Arabia's minority Shia community, was arrested in 2014 by border authorities while travelling with his family to Bahrain. He was said to be Saudi Arabia's youngest known political prisoner.

Following his arrest, he was detained in Dar al-Mulahaza juvenile detention centre and held in solitary confinement for a month. There he was allegedly beaten and intimidated during his interrogation, before being moved to an adult prison aged 16.

The teenager is now being tried at a terror court, where prosecutors are reportedly seeking to impose the harshest form of death penalty, which may include crucifixion or the dismemberment of Mr Qureiris after his death.

"The Saudi Arabian authorities have a chilling track record of using the death penalty as a weapon to crush political dissent and punish anti-government protesters - including children - from the country's persecuted Shia minority," Ms Maalouf said.

Months previously Riyadh carried out one of the largest mass executions in recent years when it killed 37 people for alleged terror offences.

Human Rights Watch described the punishment as "grotesque" and said most of the convicted were members of the country's persecuted Shia minority.

© Independent

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