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Rights Group Warns of Imminent Mass Executions of Political Prisoners in Saudi Arabia

Rights Group Warns of Imminent Mass Executions of Political Prisoners in Saudi Arabia
folder_openMiddle East... access_time 18 days ago
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By Staff, Agencies

A Europe-based human rights organization expressed concerns over the imminent execution of dozens of political prisoners in Saudi Arabia, as Saudi courts continue to hand heavy punishment to human rights activists for expressing their opinion.

The European Saudi Organization for Human Rights [ESOHR] said in a statement that 34 people are currently on the verge of execution in the oil-rich Gulf country, noting that Saudi authorities have put at least 120 people to death since the beginning of January until the end of May this year.

ESOHR said that Bahraini nationals Jaafar Mohammad Sultan and Sadeq Majeed Thamer, who have been accused of ‘terrorism’-related crimes, face imminent “arbitrary” execution and could be killed at any moment.

“Due to the escalation of repressive measures in Saudi Arabia, the lives of these two Bahraini youths are in danger. Many other political detainees are at the risk of execution as well,” the human rights organization said.

Back in May, Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court upheld the death sentences of Thamer and Sultan after finding them guilty of “smuggling explosives” into the kingdom and involvement in ‘terrorist’ activities.

The two Bahraini nationals were arrested in May 2015 along the King Fahd Causeway, which connects Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

They were held incommunicado for months after their arrest while being subjected to systematic and fatal torture with the aim of extracting false confessions from them.

In January, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions called on Saudi Arabia to halt the men’s execution and investigate their allegations of torture and ill-treatment.

International human rights organizations have called upon Saudi authorities to stop the imminent execution of the two Bahraini men.

The organizations have urged the officials not to ratify the death sentences, but rather, quash their convictions and re-try them in line with international fair trial standards.

According to the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights, Abdullah al-Howaiti, Jalal al-Bad, Yusuf al-Manasif, Sajjad al-Yasin, Hassan Zaki al-Faraj, Mehdi al-Moshen and Abdullah al-Razi are among the Saudi teenagers sentenced to death.

Saudi courts, ESOHR went on, have recently imposed heavy punishment and decades-long prison sentences against human rights activists and democracy advocates for expressing their opinion.

It noted that Saudi officials have sentenced Nourah al-Qahtani to 45 years in prison for her social media posts.

According to Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), Qahtani received the heavy sentence on appeal after she was convicted of “using the internet to tear [Saudi Arabia’s] social fabric” and “violating public order” via social media.

The Washington-based group added that she was convicted under the kingdom’s so-called counter-‘terrorism’ and anti-cybercrime law.

Earlier, Saudi officials had sentenced women’s rights activist Salma al-Shehab to 34 years in prison.

The United Nations Human Rights Council said in a statement that the jail term handed down to Shehab, a mother of two young children and a doctoral student at the United Kingdom’s Leeds University, is the longest sentence ever given to a women’s rights defender in Saudi Arabia.

The statement, nevertheless, came a week before Qahtani’s 45-year imprisonment was revealed.

The UN rights council noted that Saudi authorities have taken advantage of the return to the international fold, following the savage killing of Khashoggi inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, to deepen their crackdown on political opponents.

Last month, ESOHR expressed grave concern over the alarming surge in executions in Saudi Arabia in the first half of the current year, saying the figure is almost twice the number during all of last year.

The new statistics fly in the face of commitments given by Saudi authorities to curb the use of capital punishments.

Last year, 65 people were executed in the kingdom, a slight drop from the previous year that ESOHR attributed partially to coronavirus restrictions.

“If Saudi Arabia continues to execute people at the same rate during the second half of 2022, then it will exceed the record of 186 executions in 2019,” ESOHR said.

Since bin Salman became Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader in 2017, the kingdom has arrested hundreds of activists, bloggers, intellectuals and others for their political activities, showing almost zero tolerance for dissent even in the face of international condemnation of the crackdown.

Muslim scholars have been executed and women’s rights campaigners have been put behind bars and tortured as freedom of expression, association, and belief continue to be denied by the kingdom’s authorities.

Over the past years, Riyadh has also redefined its anti-‘terrorism’ laws to target activism.

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