International rights groups and organizations, including Amnesty International, have lambasted Saudi Arabia for executing a Shia youth over alleged participation in peaceful protests against the regime in Riyadh when he was a minor.
Saudi authorities handed down death sentence on Tuesday to Mustafa bin Hashem bin Issa Al Darwish, a youth from the kingdom’s Shia-majority Qatif region in the Eastern Province.
Saudi officials had accused Mustafa of taking up arms against the kingdom, threatening national security, forming a terrorist gang to kill Saudi security forces and inciting sedition. The allegations had all been rejected by human rights bodies, which had urged the Riyadh regime to revoke the verdict.
The death sentence was issued despite the fact that Mustafa was a 17-year-old teenager at the time of his arrest for taking part in peaceful protests in Qatif in 2015.
"By carrying out this execution the Saudi Arabian authorities have displayed a deplorable disregard for the right to life," Amnesty International said in a statement.
"He is the latest victim of Saudi Arabia's deeply flawed justice system which regularly sees people sentenced to death after grossly unfair trials based on confessions extracted through torture."
Britain-based campaign group, Reprieve, said Saudi authorities had not informed Mustafa’s family about his execution and they found out "by reading the news online.”
Reprieve said the Shia youth had been placed in solitary confinement and tortured in detention.
‘True face of MBS’
The Saudi regime announced last April that it was ending the death penalty for those convicted of crimes committed while they were under 18.
"Once again the Saudi authorities have shown that their claims to have abolished the death penalty for children are worthless," said Ali al-Dubaisi, director of the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights (ESOHR).
"The cruelty of this execution, without warning, for the crime of joining protests as a teenager, is the true face of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Saudi Arabia -- not the endless empty promises of reform."
Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province has been the scene of peaceful demonstrations since February 2011. Protesters have been demanding reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners, and an end to economic and religious discrimination against the oil-rich region.
The protests have been met with a heavy-handed crackdown by the regime, whose forces have ramped up measures across the province.
Ever since Mohammed bin Salman became Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader in 2017, the kingdom has ramped up arrests of activists, bloggers, intellectuals, and others perceived as political opponents, showing almost zero tolerance for dissent even in the face of international condemnations of the crackdown.
Muslim scholars have been executed and women’s rights campaigners have been put behind bars and tortured as freedoms of expression, association, and belief continue to be denied.