Saudi Arabia wants to execute teen for riding his bike in a protest march when he was 11

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Screen grab … Murtaja Qureiris at 10, riding his bike in a protest march. Now 18, he faces execution in Saudi Arabia. Credit: CNN

Murtaja Qureiris, 18, is facing execution by crucifixion in Saudi Arabia for “crimes” he committed at the age of 10.

Qureiris was arrested by the Saudi government when he was 13 and was held for four years before being charged with participating in anti-government protests. Other charges claim that he possessed a firearm and joined a terrorist organization, according to a New York Times report.

Having monitored the case for several years, The European Saudi Organization for Human Rights (ESOHR), discovered that the Saudi public prosecutor’s office has recommended that Qureiris be given the death penalty.

Murtaja’s family are known activists in the province of Qatif, a predominantly Shiite area in eastern Saudi Arabia, and in fact, an older brother, Ali Qureiris, was killed while he was participating in a protest in 2011, according to the Times story.

CNN obtained video of Qureiris in a crowd of other children riding their bikes at a sectarian protest in 2011. He was 10 and it was when Arab Spring uprisings were sweeping the Middle East and North Africa.

Video source: CNN

A June 7 report by ESOHR detailed how Qureiris was “subjected to coercion and deception by the interrogators” after his arrest in 2014 …

He remained in solitary confinement for a month, during which he was tortured and beaten, and he was also promised repeatedly that he would be released if he cooperated with the investigation and admitted the charges against him. The observation homes are not considered a safe place for children because torture and cruel and degrading treatment are practiced there, as well as allegations of employees committing sexual crimes against the children.

According to ESOHR, juveniles have been killed in two recent mass executions–one in January 2016 and another in April 2019, and they were related to the Arab Spring demonstrations. Trials of the juveniles have reportedly been void of the “most basic standards of justice.”

The ESOHR report states …

To justify its demand for the death and crucifixion of Murtaja, the public prosecution gathered several religious texts that discuss the taboo of premeditated murder, even though Murtaja was not charged with murder or even injuring anyone. The public prosecution also did not present concrete evidence of his possession of a firearm. In the ESOHR’s opinion, this makes plain not only Saudi Arabia’s use of extremist interpretations of religious texts to eliminate demonstrators and opinion-makers, but also it’s very flawed use of religious texts, clearly taking them out of context to add religious legitimacy to its unjust sentences.

“The death sentence against minor Murtaja Qureiris is a clear and blatant violation of all domestic laws and international treaties joined by Saudi Arabia,” according to ESOHR.

“There are few more serious breaches of international law than the execution of a child,” Maya Foa told the Times. Foa is director of human rights group Reprieve. “The Saudi regime is advertising its impunity to the world,” she said, referring to the death sentence.

“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 Lynn Maalouf, research director for Amnesty International, as reported by the Times.

Video source: CNN



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