By Greg Norman
Published June 07, 2019
Saudi Arabia is trying to execute an 18-year-old who was arrested at the age of 13 for participating in anti-government protests, Amnesty International announced Friday.
The news surrounding Murtaja Qureiris comes as he remains held in pre-trial detention – at least 15 months of which, CNN says, has been in solitary confinement.
“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,” Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director Lynn Maalouf said in a statement. “It is appalling that Murtaja Qureiris is facing execution for offences that include taking part in protests while he was just 10 years old.”
In a 2011 video obtained by CNN, Qureiris – as a 10-year-old – was allegedly seen leading a group of about 30 children in protest during the former Arab Spring uprising.
“The people demand human rights!” he reportedly shouted through a megaphone while riding his bicycle.
Three years later, Qureiris was arrested by the Saudi government while he and his family were traveling along a road that led to Bahrain.
The young adult currently is being tried in a terror court, where prosecutors have alleged him to belong to “an extremist terror group,” according to CNN. The network also says the government is seeking to impose the strictest form of its death penalty on Qureiris – which could include torture such as crucifixion or dismemberment following an execution.
Among the other alleged offenses Qureiris reportedly is being charged for: riding, as a 10-year-old, on the back of his brother’s motorcycle when his brother threw Molotov cocktails at a police station, shooting at security forces and participating in protests at his brother’s funeral in 2011.
But Qureiris has denied his role in those alleged events. Amnesty International says confessions that he made were obtained under duress.
“He was held in solitary confinement for a month and subjected to beatings and intimidation during his interrogation,” the group said. “His interrogators promised to release him if he confessed to the charges against him.”
If executed, Qureiris would reportedly be the fourth prisoner to be sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia this year over crimes they allegedly committed under the age of 18