Saudi authorities are planning the execution of five young men who were arrested years ago when they were children, revealed a non-governmental human rights organisation today.
The European Saudi Human Rights Organisation said in a statement that the charge of the five young men dates back all the way to when they were still children during the protests in the eastern Saudi province of Qatif in 2011.
The Germany-based NGO told the French news agency France24 that "the public prosecutor demanded that the maximum punishment be imposed on these young people, knowing that Riyadh carried out at least ten death sentences against children, all of whom did not have a fair trial."
Apart from the disproportionate charge on the nature of the crimes, the age of the defendants' arrests have especially been a point of controversy, with one of the defendants, according to the organisation, arrested at the age of nine.
The five young men – named Ahmed Abdul Wahid Al Faraj, Ali Muhammad Al Butti, Muhammad Hussain Al Nimer, Ali Hassan Al Faraj, and Muhammad Essam Al Faraj – were largely arrested and charged on the basis of attending the funerals of those killed by Saudi security forces.
According to the NGO, "Muhammad Essam Al-Faraj (18 years old) faces a charge of participating in the funeral of a victim of extrajudicial killings, which has been carried out by Saudi special forces in Qatif Governorate since 2012, when he was 9 years old. Ahmad Al-Faraj (20 years old) and Ali Al-Butti (20 years old) face charges related to two wanted persons when they were 13 years old, and Muhammad Al-Nimer (22 years old) faces a charge of participating in the funeral of a victim of extrajudicial killings when he was 14 years old".
It stated that since their arrest, the young men "have experienced horrific conditions, including long-term detention before their presentation to the court, solitary confinement, denial of access to a lawyer, torture, and other degrading and inhumane treatment."
The case comes in the midst of a similar case of three other young men arrested as children by the Saudi authorities – Ali Al-Nimr, Abdullah Al-Zahir, and Dawoud Al-Marhoon – who have had their death sentences confirmed on the same basis of involvement in and association with the demonstrations and protests.
Executions in the kingdom have sharply increased in recent years, with the punishment reaching a record number of 184 in 2019. This has particularly been the case with the ascendance of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who was reported to have ordered the execution of political opponents and critics last year.