Saudi Arabia To Behead Teenager Because He Took Part In Protest

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Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is set to execute a teenage boy who was arrested when he was 15 for attending a protest against the ruling Al Saud monarchy.

Campaigners say Abdullah al-Zaher, who is a member of Saudi Arabia’s Shia religious community, was the youngest in a group of juvenile offenders sentenced to death as part of a crackdown on political dissent.

His family have gone public with his story as a last ditched attempt to save his life.

The Independent reports: Campaign group Reprieve told The Independent Abdullah al-Zaher, who is now 19, was the youngest in a group of juvenile offenders put on death row as part of a ruthless crackdown on political dissent in the conservative kingdom.

Previously held alongside fellow juvenile offender Ali al-Nimr, whose case sparked outrage around the world, Abdullah has now been moved to solitary confinement at a new facility and could be beheaded at any moment.

In a last-ditch attempt to save their son’s life – and in spite of the danger of repercussions from the Saudi authorities – Abdullah’s parents have gone public with his story.

Speaking to the Guardian, his father Hassan al-Zaher issued a desperate appeal. He said: “Please help me save my son from the imminent threat of death. He doesn’t deserve to die just because he participated in a protest rally.”

A spokeswoman for Reprieve said Abdullah was arrested “for being in the area of a protest” in March 2012, beaten on the spot by police and tortured.

His family and lawyers believe he was forced to sign a document without knowing its contents, and which later was used as a “confession” in the closed trial against him.

Saudi government-aligned media outlets have been carrying reports in the past couple of weeks suggesting a mass execution of 52 prisoners is due to take place imminently.

And despite assurances to the contrary from the British Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, Reprieve understands that this group includes Mr al-Nimr and his uncle, Sheikh Nimr, as well as Abdullah.

The charity has been tracking the cases of three juveniles, the third being 17-year-old protester Dawoud al-Marhoon, and believes they could be killed at any moment.

“What we know from the families of the three is that they are in solitary confinement and being prepared for execution,” a Reprieve spokeswoman said.

“They have been moved and undergone medical examinations, which seem to suggest their beheading is imminent. The whole business of executions in Saudi Arabia is shrouded in secrecy, and prisoners are often beheaded without any notice to family or lawyers.”    

Mr al-Zaher described Abdullah as a popular and peaceful boy, and said the condition of his health when he last saw him in prison – three months ago now – was “not good”.

According to Amnesty International Saudi Arabia had executed 102 people in the first six months of this year.



Niamh Harris
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