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International

[ 2015-12-18 ]

Saudi Arabia to behead 15- year- old boy for attending protest
Saudi Arabia is believed to be on the brink of
executing a teenage boy who was arrested at the
age of 15 for attending a protest.

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”.

“He loved to ride my horses and wanted to become a
medical assistant or nurse someday,” he said. “My
son ... did not fully understand what the people
are protesting for. He was only 15 years old,
still a minor, so we expected a lesser punishment
if he was proven guilty.”

Going public is the last resort for families
trying to save their loved ones from Saudi death
row. Ali al-Nimr’s own father was arrested in
October after speaking to Channel 4 News.

“The Saudi government is very repressive, and a
lot of people choose not to go public because of
the risk of harassment by the authorities,”
Reprieve said. “It seems Abdullah’s family feel
they have nothing to lose.”

The Foreign Office appears to stand by its
suggestion, issued a couple of months ago, that
the Foreign Secretary’s diplomatic efforts had
secured Mr al-Nimr’s safety.

Reprieve said there was a “disconnect” between
such claims and reports from the prisoners’
families. It called on international “allies” of
Saudi Arabia, including the UK, to condemn its
plans to execute 52 people in a single day,
especially the three juveniles.










Source - Independent.co.uk



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