Saudi Arabia Defiant Amid Int’l Outcry Over Imminent Executions

Saudi Arabia Defiant Amid Int’l Outcry Over Imminent ExecutionsSaudi Arabia Defiant Amid Int’l Outcry Over Imminent Executions

Human rights organizations and activists have dismissed a Saudi statement seeking to justify the imminent execution of 14 protesters as “risible”, saying that some of the accused have never seen a lawyer, and no evidence has been presented against one disabled defendant, during the trial.

The Saudi government is facing criticism over plans to execute the 14, who were arrested in the wake of protests and sentenced to death on protest-related charges in a secretive counter-terrorism court. Among the group is Munir al-Adam, who is half-deaf , and Mujtaba al Sweikat, who was only 17 when he was sentenced to death five years ago in 2012 for allegedly attending a pro-democracy rally earlier the same year, Commondreams reported.

In a statement released on Friday, Sheikh Mansour Al-Qafari, the Saudi spokesman of the justice ministry, responded to criticism over the standard of the trial of the 14.

The statement claimed that all trials before the controversial Specialized Criminal Court, which sentenced the 14 to death, met international standards for fairness and due process, and allow for access to lawyers, the preparation of a defense, and even access to the trials by media and human rights observers.

The public statement on the executions is at odds with assessments by the UN, as well as rights groups such as human rights organization Reprieve. Reprieve has established that at least one defendant, Mujtaba, was never permitted to see a lawyer; in Munir’s case, no evidence against him was presented at trial. Mujtaba told the court at trial that he was tortured into a false confession, but this claim was dismissed by the judges and never investigated.

Commenting, Maya Foa, director of Reprieve, said: “Saudi Arabia’s attempts to justify these 14 unlawful executions are appalling. This statement is a serious mischaracterization of the trial process against the 14 men, and it is risible to claim that a protester like Mujtaba —who never even saw a lawyer— received a fair trial. Governments close to Saudi Arabia —including the Trump Administration and the UK— must urgently call on the kingdom to halt these executions.”

Additionally, Reuters cited rights activists and residents as saying that “The sentences were based on confessions that the accused had retracted in court because they were taken by pressure and torture.”


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