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The New Arab

Execution looms for Saudi Shia youth 'tortured into confession'

Saudi Arabia has handed death sentences to several Shia activists since 2012 [AFP]

Date of publication: 13 September, 2017

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Amnesty International has called on Saudi King Salman to quash the death sentence of a Saudi youth who was allegedly tortured and denied access to legal representation.

A Saudi youth who was allegedly tortured into confessing to crimes he was accused of committing when he was aged-16 is facing imminent execution, rights group Amnesty International said on Tuesday.

Saudi authorities informed the family of Abdulkareem al-Hawaj, who is now 21, on Monday that his death sentence for his alleged role in anti-government protests had been upheld.

With all avenues for appeal exhausted, Hawaj's death sentence will be carried out once King Salman ratifies the punishment, which could take place at any time.

"Saudi Arabia's vicious crackdown on dissent appears to know no bounds. Its latest victim, a child at the time of his alleged crimes, now faces death at the hands of a repressive regime that uses the death penalty as a tool to crush dissent," said Lynn Maalouf, Middle East research director at Amnesty International. 

Hawaj, who was sentenced to death in July 2016, denies the charges levelled against him. He is accused of 
a range of offences relating to protests that took place in Saudi Arabia's Shia-majority eastern provinces in 2012.

Amnesty have condemned the kingdom's "arbitrary arrest" and "torture in detention" of Hawaj and have called on the Saudi monarch to intervene what it has described as a "mockery of justice".

According to the rights group, Hawaj was denied access to a lawyer during his pre-trial detention and was held in solitary confinement for the first five months following his arrest.

Hawaj also claims he was beaten and threatened with the death of his relatives by Saudi officials. This resulted in his eventual "confession," which appears to be the sole basis of his conviction.

As a signatory of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Saudi Arabia is strictly prohibited from implementing the death penalty on individuals who were below the age of 18 at the time of the alleged crime.

Amnesty says that at least 33 Saudi Shias are currently facing the death penalty. 

The kingdom also currently holds three individuals on death row, including the nephew of executed Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr, who were arrested for crimes allegedly committed when they were under-18.

Saudi Arabia has accused many of those detained of being threats to national security, as well as collaborating with Iran.

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