Saudi Arabia: Alleged child offenders face execution, man faces beheading and crucifixion

* Crucifixion means decapitated body and head to be displayed on pole in public
* One man’s sentence increased from five years to 20 years to death

Amnesty International has issued urgent appeals for five young people in Saudi Arabia who all face imminent execution in the Kingdom.

One of these is Muhammad Basheer al-Ramaly, a 22-year-old man who has been sentenced to death - by beheading - in the northern Saudi city of Hail. Reports indicate that the sentence also specifies that Muhammad is to be crucified, meaning that after beheading his decapitated body and head will be placed on a pole in a public square to act as a “deterrent”.

Muhammad was convicted by the Hail General Court of the kidnapping and rape of four people in February. Little is known about his trial, but death sentences in Saudi Arabia are invariably imposed after unfair trials carried out in secret. He did not have access to a lawyer during his trial and there are reports that he may be suffering from a psychological disorder.

The other people at risk of imminent execution are four Iraqi nationals now aged between 20 and 22, but reportedly aged between 15 and 18 at the time of their arrests. The four - Raid Halassa Sakit (20), Abbas Fadil Abbas (20), Othman Ali (20) and Aqil Matsher (22) - were sentenced to death (after unfair trials) despite that fact that international law strictly forbids capital punishment in the case of those accused of crimes while aged below 18 years.

Very little is know about the cases of Abbas, Othman and Aqil, but it is known that Raid Halassa Sakit was arrested in the town of Rafha in 2005 before being charged with drugs offences and of links with Iraqi armed groups. Raid was allegedly tortured with electric shocks into making a “confession” which he signed even though he is illiterate. He was tried in secret with no legal assistance and originally sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, which was later increased to 20 years before again being increased to a death sentence.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“These cases are shocking even by Saudi standards.

To sentence anyone to death after a secret and unfair trial would be appalling enough - but to sentence four alleged child offenders to death by beheading and another young man to crucifixion is a complete abomination.

“Even supporters of capital punishment within the kingdom of Saudi Arabia ought to be troubled by these sentences and I appeal to the Saudi authorities to look again at these sentences which risk bringing shame on the country.”

Saudi Arabia is one of the heaviest users of the death penalty in the world, last year executing at least 102 people - the third highest number globally, behind only China and Iran. So far this year at least 44 people have been executed.

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