Saudi authorities have released Murtaja Qureiris, who was once considered to be the kingdom’s youngest political prisoner.
Qureiris who is from the country’s Shia minority was arrested at the age of 13 in 2014 for allegedly taking part in demonstrations, aged 10 during the Arab Spring in 2011. His release was confirmed by a human rights group on Friday.
“Murtaja Qureiris, detained since 2014 when he was only 13, has been released following the expiry of his sentence,” ALQST for Human Rights said on Twitter.
“Qureiris had been at risk of the death penalty, and was later sentenced to eight years on charges including participating in protests at the age of 10,” the London-based group added.
Murtaja Qureiris, detained since 2014 when he was only 13, has been released following the expiry of his sentence.
— ALQST for Human Rights (@ALQST_En) June 24, 2022
Amnesty International in the Gulf has said it was “happy” for Qureiris and his family.
Originally facing the death penalty, Qureiris received a 12-year prison sentence likely due to the international attention his case was receiving. His term was eventually reduced to eight, yet with time served he was now due for release.
In recent months, Saudi Arabia has released several young Shia men from prison, including Ali Al-Nimr, who was also arrested as a minor for allegedly taking part in anti-government protests. His death sentence was also commuted.
Al-Nimr is the nephew of the late Shia cleric, Nimr Al-Nimr, who was executed in 2016 which was widely condemned internationally and led to the severance of diplomatic ties between Riyadh and Tehran.
A royal decree issued in in 2020 abolished the death penalty for offences committed while the accused was a minor, however human rights groups have since expressed concern that this might not be observed in practice.
Last year human rights groups criticised the kingdom for failing to annul the death sentences handed down to five people who were minors when they were charged.