Sunday, April 28, 2019

Saudi One-day Beheading Spree: 37 Including Boys

The body of a crucified criminal was put on public display in Saudi Arabia after the execution of 37 nationals in one day, according to local media reports.

State-run media carried statements on Tuesday to say those executed had ‘adopted extremist ideologies and formed terrorist cells with the aim of spreading chaos and provoking sectarian strife’.

Saudi authorities said that one person was crucified after his execution, with the Middle East Eye reporting that the body was then publicly displayed. The U.N. human rights chief condemned the beheadings, saying most were minority Shi'ite Muslims who may not have had fair trials and at least three were minors when sentenced.

The name of the person who was crucified has not been released by authorities. The sentences were carried out in Riyadh, the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina, central Qassim province and Eastern Province, home to the country's Shiite minority.

Elsewhere, two people beheaded in Saudi Arabia were arrested when they were just 16 and 17 - including one teenager set to start a new life in the US at Western Michigan University. Mujtaba al-Sweikat, then 17, was severely beaten all over his body, including on the soles of his feet, before 'confessing' to crimes including attending protests.

In 2017, staff at the university said the English language and pre-finance studies student showed 'great promise' and called for him to be released. Abdulkarim al-Hawaj, 21, was also beheaded in public four years after being arrested in the country's Shia-majority Eastern province for spreading information about protests on WhatsApp.

Under international law, putting to death anyone who was under 18 at the time of the crime is strictly prohibited. At the time of his arrest, staff at Western Michigan University said the English language and pre-finance studies student, Mujtaba al-Sweikat, showed 'great promise' and called for him to be released.

Human rights charity Reprieve said al-Hawaj was beaten, tortured with electricity and chained with his hands above his head until he 'confessed' to his crimes. Reprieve said both men were sentenced to death at the end of 'sham trials' when they were denied access to lawyers.

It claimed they were held for months in solitary confinement and their convictions were solely based on their 'confessions' which were extracted under torture. At his trial, al-Hawaj was convicted on cyber crime charges including spreading information on WhatsApp 'as proscribed by the cyber crime bill' and sentenced to death.

Reprieve Deputy Director Harriet McCulloch said: 'Many things can be used to justify a death sentence in Mohammed Bin Salman's Saudi Arabia, including "disobedience against the King", "preparing banners with anti-state slogans" and "incitement via social media".

'Mujtaba al-Sweikat and Abdulkarim al-Hawaj were teenagers sharing information about peaceful protests on their mobile phones. 'Saudi Arabia's western allies must act now, to prevent any more young people being killed for exercising their right to freedom of expression.'

Ali al-Nimr has been sentenced to 'death by Crucifixion' for taking part in a demonstration, inviting others to it and explaining how to give first aid to protesters. He is currently on death row. Abdullah al-Zaher was also sentenced to death for crimes they allegedly committed under the age of 18.

A third man among the 37 executed, Munir al-Adam, was just 23 when arrested at a government checkpoint in April 2012. He was beaten on the soles of his feet and had to crawl on his hands and knees for days. As a five-year-old boy he had lost his hearing in one ear following an accident, but after torture he lost hearing in the other and was left totally deaf. He told a judge he had signed a confession because he was exhausted by the torture.

Three other prisoners who were under 18 at the time of their alleged crimes, Ali al-Nimr, Dawood al-Marhoon and Abdullah al-Zaher, remain on death row. Al-Marhoon told Reprieve he was tortured and made to sign a blank document, to which Saudi officials then added his 'confession'.

The men were executed 'for adopting terrorist and extremist thinking and for forming terrorist cells to corrupt and destabilise security', a statement published by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said.

Executions in the ultra-conservative kingdom are usually carried out by beheading. At least 100 people have been executed in Saudi Arabia since the beginning of the year, according to a count based on official data released by SPA. Last year, the oil-rich Gulf state carried out the death sentences of 149 people, according to Amnesty International, which said only Iran was known to have executed more people.

Rights experts have repeatedly raised concerns about the fairness of trials in Saudi Arabia, governed under a strict form of Islamic law. People convicted of terrorism, homicide, rape, armed robbery and drug trafficking face the death penalty, which the government says is a deterrent for further crime.