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Saudi officials plan to execute over 40 teenagers over participation in Qatif protests, say activists

This file picture shows Saudi minors Munir al-Adam, Mujtaba al-Sweikat, Abdulkarim Mohammed al-Hawaj, (from left to right) who were executed by Saudi authorities in a mass execution of 37 imprisoned civilians, on April 23, 2019. (Photo via Twitter)

Human rights activists have warned that Saudi authorities plan to execute dozens of teenagers from the kingdom’s Shia-​populated Qatif region in Eastern Province over their participation in peaceful anti-regime protests.

Even though Saudi officials claimed last year to have halted the practice of executing people for crimes committed as a minor, the activists said, more than 40 teenagers face death penalty only because they took part in pro-democracy rallies in 2011, the Arabic-language Saudi Leaks news website reported.

The report comes less than a week after Saudi Arabia executed young Shia Muslim man Mustafa bin Hashim bin Issa Al Darwish, 26, who was convicted on charges stemming from his participation in an anti-regime protest as a minor.

Al Darwish was arrested in May 2015 and charged with protest-related offences, many of which occurred when he was 17. He was executed on June 15 in Dammam, a statement from the Saudi Ministry of Interior read.

Reprieve and Amnesty International said his confession was obtained under duress and that he recanted his confession, which he said was obtained through torture, in court.

Eastern Province has been the scene of peaceful demonstrations since February 2011. Protesters have been demanding reforms, freedom of expression, 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. Security forces have increased security measures across the province.

Hamas supporters behind bars

Separately, an independent non-governmental organization advocating human rights in Saudi Arabia says nearly 160 Palestinians are being held captive in the kingdom on charges of affiliation to the Islamic resistance movement of Hamas.

The Prisoners of Conscience stated that the detainees are being kept at the General Abha Prison in southwestern Saudi Arabia.

Back on June 8, Hamas reiterated that Saudi Arabia should release Palestinians held in its prisons, particularly the high-ranking ailing official Muhammad al-Khudari. 

Senior Hamas official Ra’fat Murra said at the time that the continued detention of Khudari, 83, and other Palestinians is a “great injustice and an offense to the Palestinian people, their just cause and the Palestinian-Saudi relations.”

Murra urged the Saudi authorities to make a “courageous and responsible” decision to immediately end the trial of Khudari and others, especially as “the detainees have not committed any offense.”

He noted that Khudari and other Palestinian detainees and their families “have gone through injustice and suffering for more than two years.”

Khudari and his son Hani were arbitrarily arrested on April 4, 2019. He has been living in Saudi Arabia for over 30 years, and represented Hamas between mid-1990s and 2003 in the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia’s repressive measures against the Palestinian resistance movement as well as those seeking to collect donations for people living in the blockaded Gaza Strip coincide with Riyadh’s expansion of secret ties with Israel under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

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