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For immediate release: Wed Dec 2, 2015
Saudi Arabia to execute 52 prisoners, including juveniles, en masse
The government of Saudi Arabia is preparing to execute some 52 prisoners at once, including several juveniles arrested at protests, according to reports.
Several Arabic media outlets have this week reported official sources as saying that 52 prisoners are set to be executed in the near future. The reports appear to suggest that among those executed will be six youths arrested at protests in the country’s Eastern Province – including juveniles Ali al Nimr, Dawoud al-Marhoon and Abdullah al-Zaher. All three were tortured into bogus ‘confessions’ that would be used to convict them.
The reports say the 52 prisoners – all of whom were convicted in the secretive Specialized Criminal Court – will be executed across nine different cities in the Kingdom in a single day. They suggest that preparations for the executions will be made in the next two weeks. It appears that Sheikh Nimr – Ali’s uncle and an outspoken critic of the Saudi government – is among those set to be executed.
Sheikh Nimr and the juveniles are currently understood to be held in isolation, awaiting execution. All have reportedly recently been given an unexplained medical examination, and there are concerns that this could be a prelude to their being executed at any time. Abdullah – who was 15 when arrested – has recently been moved to a prison some 1,000km from his family, who are now unable to visit him.
The news comes amid outrage at separate plans by the Saudi authorities to execute Ashraf Fayadh, a Palestinian poet who was convicted of ‘apostasy.’ There have been widespread calls for the execution to be halted, including from the Palestinian Authority. Recent research by international human rights organization Reprieve has found that a large majority of those facing execution in Saudi Arabia were convicted of non-violent offences such as apostasy and political protest.
Commenting, Reprieve caseworker Kate Higham said: “These plans are deeply alarming, and should prompt revulsion and condemnation from Saudi Arabia’s allies. It is grotesque in the extreme for the Saudi authorities to suggest executing 52 people at once – among them three juveniles, arrested at protests, whose convictions were ‘secured’ through torture. The US, the UK, and others must urgently intervene, and tell the Saudis there is nothing to be gained from this bloody wave of executions.”
Notes to editors
1. Reprieve is an international human rights organization. Reprieve’s London office can be contacted on: communications [at] reprieve.org.uk / +44 (0) 207 553 8140. Reprieve US, based in New York City, can be contacted on Katherine [dot] oshea [at] reprieve.org / +1 917 855 8064.1.
2. The Saudi plans were reported via official sources in news outlets including Okaz and Shareq al Awsat – see here, for example.
3. Reprieve’s report on Saudi Arabia’s death row can be read here.