The Washington Post

Saudi teen could face death penalty

- BY ERIN CUNNINGHAM erin.cunningham@washpost.com

ISTANBUL — Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor is seeking the death penalty against a teenager accused of crimes he allegedly committed as a minor, drawing fire from rights groups who say his execution would violate internatio­nal law.

Murtaja Qureiris, 18, faces a raft of charges stemming from his participat­ion in anti-government demonstrat­ions, including some that date to when he was 10 years old.

Prosecutor­s also accuse Qureiris, a member of the kingdom’s Shiite Muslim minority, of joining a “terrorist organizati­on” and throwing molotov cocktails at a police station. Authoritie­s detained Qureiris in 2014 and have held him for more than four years, rights advocates say.

Amnesty Internatio­nal, a London-based rights group, confirmed last week that Saudi prosecutor­s were seeking the death penalty for Qureiris, whose first trial session was held in August.

The confirmati­on followed a report by CNN that included videos of Qureiris at demonstrat­ions in eastern Saudi Arabia’s restive Qatif region.

“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,” Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty Internatio­nal’s Middle East research director, said in a statement.

“It is appalling that Murtaja Qureiris is facing execution for offenses that include taking part in protests while he was just 10 years old,” Maalouf said. “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.”

Saudi Arabia executed 37 people in a single day in April, at least three of whom were minors, according to rights groups. It is one of a handful of countries that routinely apply the death penalty, often by beheading.

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