Protest in front of Saudi Arabia embassy
Protest in front of Saudi Arabia embassyReuters

Saudia Arabia is seeking the execution of an 18-year old for crimes he committed as young as age 10, according to a recent CNN report.

Murtaja Qureiris, a member of Saudi Arabia's minority Shi'a community, was arrested at age 13 and has been sitting in jail ever since. He currently is facing execution for various charges, including taking part in government protests during the 2011 Arab Spring movement when he was 10. Other charges include his attendance at his brother's funeral who was killed at a protest in 2011, joining a "terrorist organization" and throwing Molotov cocktails at a police station.

According to the CNN report, Qureiris has denied the charges and claims that the confession that the prosecution is relying on was obtained under duress.

Amnesty International confirmed the CNN report. “There should be no doubt that the Saudi Arabian authorities are ready to go to any length to crack down on dissent against their own citizens, including by resorting to the death penalty for men who were merely boys at the time of their arrest,” said Amnesty International’s Middle East research director, Lynn Maalouf. “It is appalling that Murtaja Qureiris is facing execution for offenses that include taking part in protests while he was just 10 years old.”

When Qureiris was arrested at age 13, he was considered to be the youngest political prisoner in Saudi Arabia at the time. Amnesty International, which followed what happened to Qureiris over the course of his five-year detention, said that Qureiris was put in solitary confinement for a month and was intimidated and beaten. The CNN report added that over the course of Qureiris' detention in prison, he's been in solitary confinement for at least one year and three months.

"His interrogators promised to release him if he confessed to the charges against him," Amnesty International said. "In May 2017 he was moved to al-Mabaheth prison in al-Dammam, an adult prison, even though he was just 16 years old."

Maalouf said that according to international law, the death penalty is banned for those under age 18. "The Saudi Arabian authorities have a chilling track record of using the death penalty as a weapon to crush political dissent and punish anti-government protesters — including children — from the country's persecuted Shi'a minority," she said.

"The international community … has a crucial role — they must take a public stand on these cases and demand that the Saudi authorities end their use of the death penalty once and for all," Maalouf concluded.

The CNN report added that if Qureiris is executed, he would be the fourth minor prisoner to be executed this year for crimes allegedly committed before age 18. Two of the other three minors were also arrested for alleged violence during the Arab Spring and executed as part of a mass execution of 37 prisoners, most of whom were Shi'a. They were sentenced based on confessions which the prisoners claimed were made under duress due to torture.