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Saudis Free Man Who Faced Execution for Protest at Age 13
Murtaja Qureiris at age 13 and today. (Screenshot: European Saudi Organization for Human Rights/Twitter)

Saudis Free Man Who Faced Execution for Protest at Age 13

The Saudi government freed a man who was arrested as a minor for involvement in anti-government protests and could have been sentenced to death. Murtaja Qureiris was arrested in 2014 on suspicion of having taken part in Arab Spring protests in 2011, when he was 13 years old. A video showed him at a demonstration by members of the kingdom’s Shi’a minority, to which he belongs. He and other children attended the rally, in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, on bicycles. He is believed to be the youngest Saudi prisoner detained for political protest. Human rights groups say he was held for several years without charges, and then charged with membership in a terrorist organization and accused of accompanying his older brother, who had allegedly thrown Molotov cocktails at a police station. Prosecutors demanded the death penalty, which, human rights activists say, could have been carried out by beheading, followed by crucifixion. Dozens of protesters have been executed in Saudi Arabia. But Qureiris, after a confession that rights groups say was extracted under torture, was ultimately sentenced to a 12-year prison term, later reduced to eight years. In 2020, a royal decree abolished the death penalty in Saudi Arabia for offences committed as a minor, but human rights groups are skeptical that the decree has fully ended the practice.

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