Saudi Arabia to execute 14 men on protest-related charges after ‘grossly unfair’ mass trial

Amnesty International calls on King Salman to pardon individuals sentenced to death after what it described as ‘sham court proceedings’ amid crackdown on dissent 

Saudi Arabia has dealt with periodic unrest since the Arab Spring uprising in 2011
Saudi Arabia has dealt with periodic unrest since the Arab Spring uprising in 2011

The Supreme Court of Saudi Arabia has upheld the death sentences of 14 men who were found guilty of various charges in proceedings which “brazenly flouted international fair trial standards,” Amnesty International has said.

The 14 individuals were convicted of a range of offences, including “armed rebellion against the ruler” by “participating in shooting at security personnel, security vehicles”, “preparing and using Molotov Cocktail bombs”, “theft and armed robbery” and “inciting chaos, organising and participating in riots”, court documents showed.

The men - who were tried en masse, and told the court they had been subjected to lengthy pre-trial detention in which they were tortured into confession - were originally sentenced on 1 June.

The news of the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the lower Specialised Criminal Court’s decision became public this week.

“By confirming these sentences, Saudi Arabia’s authorities have displayed their ruthless commitment to the use of the death penalty as a weapon to crush dissent and neutralise political opponents,” said Samah Hadid, the organisation’s director of campaigns for the Middle East.

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“King Salman’s signature is now all that stands between them and their execution. He must immediately quash these death sentences which are a result of sham court proceedings that brazenly flout international fair trial standards.“

Saudi Arabia has dealt with unrest - particular in the eastern province of Qatif, home to many of the majority Sunni country’s Shia minority - since the Arab Spring uprising in 2011.

The oil-producing region has been hit by a wave of violence in recent months, including car bombs and shoot outs between armed protesters and soldiers, over plans to demolish and redevelop a 400-year-old traditionally Shia neighbourhood in the town of Awamiya.

Riyadh says terrorists hide in buildings there in order to launch attacks on the security services. Earlier this month, four men from the area were executed on terrorism charges.

In May, Awamiyah was placed under siege-like conditions by the army; residents say several people have been injured or killed in ongoing violence between protesters and the state.

International human rights watchdogs have consistently condemned Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.

Under the conservative Kingdom’s strict Islamic laws, crimes such as murder, rape, drug offences and apostasy all carry the death penalty.

Is it thought the Saudi authorities have executed 66 people so far in 2017 - among the highest death penalty rate in the world.

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