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Saudi Arabia issues death sentence for juvenile Shia activists, one arrested aged nine Open in fullscreen

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Saudi Arabia issues death sentence for juvenile Shia activists, one arrested aged nine

The youngest of the group was arrested at the age of nine [Getty]

Date of publication: 3 March, 2020

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The charges facing the group relate to the 'crime' of burying the victims of extrajudicial government killings of Shia dissidents during a 2012 crackdown on protests.

Saudi authorities will execute five men for alleged crimes committed as juveniles during a 2012 crackdown on Shia dissent in the ultraconservative kingdom, Arabi21 reported.

The five individuals were named by the European Saudi Organisation for Human rights (ESOHR) as Ahmad Abdel Al-Wahid Al-Faraj, Ali Mohammad Al-Biti, Mohammad Hussain Al-Nimr, Ali Hassan Al-Faraj and Mohammad Essam Al- Faraj.

The youngest of the group was arrested when he was nine years old, according to ESOHR.

The charges brought against the men relate to the period of anti-government unrest in 2011 that rocked the eastern province of Qatif - home to the country's largest Shia population.

Protesters took to the streets across eastern Saudi Arabia, demanding an end to alleged discrimination by the Sunni-dominated government amid the Arab Spring uprisings in the region.

One of the leaders of the protest movement, prominent Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr, was executed in 2016 for "terrorism".

Nimr's execution exacerbated sectarian tension both across the Gulf and with Saudi Arabia's main regional rival, Iran. 

ESOHR told France 24 that the Saudi public prosecutor opted to impose the "harshest punishment" on the group, who were charged with the "crime of burying victims" of extra-judicial killings carried out by Saudi authorities during a crackdown on dissident activists.

The group have been in prison awaiting trial for over two years, with some members held in solitary confinement. Others have been denied legal representation and allegedly subject to torture. 

The ultra-conservative kingdom has one of the world's highest rates of execution, with suspects convicted of terrorism, homicide, rape, armed robbery and drug trafficking facing the death penalty.

Human rights groups have repeatedly raised concerns about the fairness of trials in the kingdom, which is an absolute monarchy governed under a strict form of Islamic law.

Read more: UN experts urge Riyadh to halt execution of juvenile offenders  

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