SHAFAQNA– Investigation by American news channel the CNN has found that a young prisoner detained for nearly five years in Saudi Arabia is in risk of imminent death penalty.
Murtaja Qureiris was 13 years old when he was arrested while returning from a family trip to Bahrain and taken to custody. After serving five years in pre-trial prison –which at least 15 months of it was in solitary confinement- he is now facing death penalty on charges of sowing sedition, belonging to an extremist terror group and violence allegedly happened during protests and funeral for his brother Ali Qureiris in 2011.
Ali Qureiris was shot dead during a demonstration that Saudi authorities claim was violent. Murtaja was 11 at the time. The terror court prosecutor also accuses Murtaja of accompanying his brother and making Molotov Cocktails that were thrown at a police station in the Eastern Province.
Another charge leveled against him is that he organized a bike ride in 2011 in the city of Awamiya when young kids shouted: “The people demand human rights.”
18-year-old Murtaja Qureiris who is believed to be the youngest known political detainee in Saudi Arabia has denied all charges, saying they were taken under torture and duress. Saudi authorities claim Murtaja is responsible for all his actions, as the age of criminal responsibility is 12 at the kingdom, but a simple math shows Murtaja was 10 when he committed one of those alleged crimes.
Although Saudi Arabia has refused to comment on CNN’s report, an inquiry by the UN Working Group for Arbitrary Detention in 2016 discussed a jailed minor who had been arrested arbitrarily, tortured and his confessions extracted. The UN Working Group noted that the Shia minor was likely detained in connection with his participation in peaceful demonstrations and funerals. According to activists, security forces arrested and jailed another of Murtaja’s brothers as well as his father in 2018.
News about possible death penalty against Murtaja Qureiris comes almost 2 months after Riyadh executed 37 political prisoners in late April 2019. Thirty-three of them were Shia men from the Eastern region. At least three of the prisoner who were beheaded during the mass execution had committed alleged crimes before the age of 18.
In another development, rights group Amnesty International has urged the Saudi kingdom to refrain from using death penalty against Murtaja Qureiris. In a statement, Amnesty has confirmed that Saudi public prosecutor has sought death punishment against Murtaja in August 2018, for charges committed when he was only 10, calling this treatment “appalling”. The UK-based rights body blamed authorities in Riyadh for being ready to go to any length to quell the dissident and the Shia minority in east of the country.
Source: CNN, Amnesty International
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