Saudi set to execute teen for attending a rally four years ago

Published December 21st, 2015 - 05:55 GMT
Abdullah al-Zaher was arrested in March 2012 after attending protests. (AFP/File)
Abdullah al-Zaher was arrested in March 2012 after attending protests. (AFP/File)

The family of a Saudi teenager set to be beheaded because he attended a protest when he was just 15 years old has pleaded for help.

Abdullah al-Zaher, now 19, was arrested in March 2012 after attending protests and is said to have been beaten and then tortured into signing a confession without being allowed to read it or consult with his parents or a lawyer.

He faced a range of charges from ‘harbouring’ protesters, participating in demonstrations and chanting slogans, to ‘concealing the offence of incitement’, setting fire to a car, and throwing petrol bombs.

Zaher was sentenced to beheading in Saudi Arabia's secretive Specialized Criminal Court in 2014 and his sentence was upheld this year, according to the human rights organisation, Reprieve.

The prosecutor requested that Zaher be crucified after he is beheaded.

Zaher is currently in solitary confinement awaiting execution, which it is feared could happen at any time.

He is thought to be the youngest person at the time of arrest to be given a death sentence in Saudi Arabia.

Zaher's father, Hassan al-Zaher told The Guardian, 'Please help me save my son from the imminent threat of death. He doesn’t deserve to die just because he participated in a protest rally.'

He said Zaher had told him he had not thrown Molotov cocktails or 'anything similar' at the protest.

Zaher's father told The Guardian his son is popular and peaceful and that he went to the protests not really knowing what they were about.

'He did not go there with the intention of fighting or opposing the government, in his eyes it was just a simple protest rally,' he added.

Reprieve, which is assisting the juveniles, has asked UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond to intervene in Abdullah’s case and those of Ali al-Nimr and Dawoud al-Marhoon, who were also juveniles when they were arrested at protests.

The Foreign Office has confirmed that the UK had intervened with the Saudi authorities on the cases, but would not give details.

Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said: 'Abdullah al-Zaher has been through a horrifying ordeal - arrested at the age of 15 for attending a protest, tortured into a "confession", and now awaiting execution in solitary confinement, far from his family.

'It is utterly disgraceful that the Saudi authorities are now threatening to carry out his beheading imminently, along with the killing of other juveniles like Ali al-Nimr.

'Those governments who are among the closest Saudi allies - notably the UK and the US - must step in without delay and urge the Saudi authorities to change course.'

Two weeks ago, Saudi media reports suggested the government was preparing to execute more than 50 prisoners in a single day, including those arrested during the protests.

By Jenny Stanton

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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