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May's Glory

Who Will Save the Minors of Qatif?

Who Will Save the Minors of Qatif?
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By Latifa al-Husseini

The tragedies of the resident of Qatif are endless. As if they are destined to be persecuted. Yet, it is an injustice that does not make them surrender. Rather, it urges them to adhere more to their peaceful protests and the righteousness of their choices despite all attempts to silence them and end their human rights movement.

Thus, it is a long battle with many obstacles on the way. At the forefront are the mock trials of those arbitrarily detained. These detainees face the worst forms of punishment for simply demonstrating and demanding justice and equality.

The kingdom’s prison cells are overflooding with political detainees who have been convicted only because they opposed the regime, its methods and its policies. Among them are those who are wrongfully imprisoned while they were minors. Their crime was sympathizing with the popular demonstrations that took place in 2011 on the streets of Qatif. Thus, they were fated to be put behind bars.

The sentencing is issued by one side. There is no room for self-defense or the appointment of a defense lawyer. The hearings are held with the accused not knowing their procedures and what was involved. His sole role is to submit to the orders of the king's official ruler and his judicial apparatus. And if he was sentenced to be executed, enforce hadd on him or kill him through Ta’zir, his family will only be notified after his martyrdom. He will then be buried alone, and his family is not allowed to bid him farewell or receive his will.

12 minors may be executed soon

Over the past few days, a list that carries the names of individuals who are at imminent risk of execution in Saudi Arabia has been leaked. The list includes 12 minors. All those on the list have reportedly been jailed over politically motivated charges. Several rights organizations have warned that their executions might be imminent.

ESOHR voiced serious concerns to Al-Ahed news website. They report that those facing imminent executions are in different stages of litigation. Some have exhausted all legal remedies and are waiting for their execution orders to be signed by the king – a not so public procedure. Others have been sentenced and are waiting to appeal. The third group of detainees is facing requests from the prosecution for the death penalty. The total number of detainees at risk of imminent execution is 47.

What stands out, according to the ESOHR, is that 12 prisoners were charged when they were still minors. For instance, Muhammad Issam Al-Faraj (born in 2002) was charged before he was ten years old.

Trials for detainees without defense lawyers

The danger, thus, is imminent. A source in Saudi Arabia’s Qatif explains to Al-Ahed that the latest data from within the General Investigation Directorate [Mabaheth] prison in Dammam confirmed fears that the Saudi regime will execute the minors, especially since the trials were held mostly without the presence of defense lawyers and in complete secrecy. The detainees’ relatives will know about the trials days after they were transferred from the Mabaheth prison in Dammam to the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) in Riyadh.

Sorrow and human suffering

The cases of the detainees are marred by injustice and cruelty. Just as the prisoners suffer great injustice, their families complain of being deprived of their loved ones. They are extremely and psychologically tormented. In addition to subjecting their children to abuse, the authorities withhold news about their loved ones and even prohibit them from meeting for the last time before their executions.

The source points to the bitterness of the families when they search for a way to follow the latest in the case of their children, especially in light of the painful leaks regarding their fate.

"The families of those sentenced to death in Qatif live in a state of paralysis and hope at the same time. In one instance, they are hopeful that the verdict will be annulled, and in other instances they fear the regime will blindside their sons as it did in the April 23, 2019 massacre where 33 detainees were martyred, in the July 11, 2017 massacre which claimed the lives of four martyrs and the January 2, 2016 massacre when 4 detainees including martyr Sheikh Nimr Baqir Al-Nimr were executed,” the source adds.

Denial of the final farewell

Taha Al-Hajji, one of the most prominent Saudi attorneys closely following up on the situation, warns about the severity of these people’s cases. He points out that some were handed down final rulings, indicating the possibility of their execution at any time without prior announcement or informing their parents.

Al-Hajji tells Al-Ahed that this method is a flagrant violation of the prisoners’ human rights, regardless of the authenticity of their arrest and trial in the first place. The authorities prevent them from writing their final wills, meeting their parents and bidding them farewell.

These measures continue after their deaths. The parents are not informed of their son’s martyrdom. Hence, disregarding their feelings. More than one incident bear witness to this violence, the latest was in April, when families heard the news of the brutal executions of the detainees from local media and through the WhatsApp application. 

Al-Hajji stresses that more violations are committed after the detainees’ executions. The detainees are buried far from their hometowns, estranged from their families. No [Islamic] funeral prayer is performed for them. And their families are not allowed to take a final glance at their bodies with torture marks on them. And all of this is because they were accused of the so-called crime of exercising their natural rights of opposing and protesting. Nothing more.

By virtue of his judicial experience, the lawyer points out that the juvenile system that was issued to prevent the killing of underage detainees will not deter the authorities and the court from continuing to implement the death penalty, for the prosecution insists on requesting this punishment.

God is their Ever-Reckoner

We only rely on God, sources close to the families of the executed detainees say, “We are facing a dictatorial and bloody regime that intimidates and terrorizes the people. It executes minors and the oppressed to ensure that its rule remains at the expense of the people who demanded their most basic rights or who took part in peaceful demonstrations or expressed their views of what they perceived as misery.”

These sources stress that the situation gets even more complicated in light of the Al-Saud clan’s failure to respond to all the human rights organizations and voices condemning these acts. 

This means that nothing will deter the Saudi regime from committing crimes against the residents of Qatif, who are banned from expressing their opinions and deprived of their rights.