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Saudi executes young Shia man for 'rebellion' as a minor

Image of an Amnesty International rally [Richard Potts/Flickr]
Amnesty International rally, 28 July 2017 [Richard Potts/Flickr]

Saudi Arabia has been condemned by human rights groups, including Amnesty International, following the execution of a young man from the kingdom's Shia minority over an alleged crime he committed as a minor.

Yesterday the Interior Ministry announced that 26-year-old Mustafa Hashem Al-Darwish had been executed after his death sentence had been upheld earlier this month.

Al-Darwish was arrested when he was 17 in May 2015 and charged with acts of "rebellion" by taking part in anti-government demonstrations in the Shia-majority Qatif region in the Eastern Province.

"By carrying out this execution the Saudi Arabian authorities have displayed a deplorable disregard for the right to life," Amnesty International said in a statement.

"He is the latest victim of Saudi Arabia's deeply flawed justice system which regularly sees people sentenced to death after grossly unfair trials based on confessions extracted through torture."

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According to the rights group Reprieve: "The execution of Mustafa al-Darwish once again shows that the Kingdom's claim to have eliminated capital punishment for childhood crimes is not true."

They also stated that his family received no advance notice prior to the execution, only finding out about it online.

Al-Darwish's relatives, who had warned that there was an "immediate risk" of his death sentence being carried out, had sought the assistance of British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab in urging for his release during his visit to the kingdom earlier this month. However it remains unclear if Raab brought up his case in his meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

The execution went ahead despite a royal decree last year decreed that crimes committed by minors would no longer be punishable by death, with perpetrators receiving a ten-year jail sentence instead. The decree was never reported by state media nor published in the official gazette as would be normal practice however. The state-backed Human Rights Commission also told Reuters in February that the ban would only apply to less serious crimes. The decree was applied to three Shia young men that same month.

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