Murtaja Qureiris was 10-years-old when he started making offenses against Saudi Arabia’s government. Now, he faces the death penalty.
Qureiris was arrested when he was 13-years-old when he was traveling with his family to Bahrain. He was detained by Saudi border authorities, according to CNN.
The now 18-year-old is facing potential execution because he participated in a protest with many other young boys, demanding human rights for his fellow citizens.
During the 2011 Arab Spring, Qureiris was in the midst of a bike ride with children around the same age. The bike ride was an expression of dissent as the children were apart of Saudi Arabia’s Shi’a minority, per Amnesty International.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Qureiris Was Charged for Allegedly Throwing Molotov Cocktails at a Police Station
According to CNN, Qureiris was charged for throwing Molotov cocktails at a police facility in the eastern Saudi city of Awamiya.
He was accompanying his activist brother, Ali Qureiris, on a motorcycle ride.
According to Amnesty International, Qureiris was charged for several other crimes. Those crimes include participating in anti-government protests, attending the funeral of his brother Ali Qureiris who was killed in a protest in 2011, joining a “terrorist organization,” firing at security forces, along with throwing Molotov cocktails at a police station.
Abdulkareem al-Hawaj, was another Shi’a young man who was arrested at the age 16. He was executed, along with 37 others as the Saudi government carried out a slew of anti-government punishment, via execution, in one day, per Amnesty International.
2. Qureiris Was Put Into Solitary Confinement for a Month Where He Was Subject to Beatings and Intimidation
Saudi Arabia saw waves of protests by Saudi Arabia’s Shi’a minority. The Saudi government has recently cracked down on punishments of these protests in recent years, including the intimidation and execution of protestors, per Amnesty International.
“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.
Qureiris was arrested in September 2014. He was at Dar al-Mulahaza at the juvenile detention center in al-Dammam city, according to Amnesty International. He was also held in solitary confinement where he was subject to physical abuse and intimidation in the midst of interrogations. His interrogators promised he’d be released if he confessed, yet he was denied a lawyer until after his first court session in August 2018.
According to CNN, Qureiris has spent at least a year and three months of his detainment in solitary confinement.
3. The Saudi Government Is Seeking to Impose the Harshest Forms of Execution
During Qureiris’ older brother’s funeral, videos showed attendees shouting anti-government slogans throughout the ceremony, according to CNN. Qureiris’ father was shown pleading with God to help him deal with his son’s absence.
Although prosecutors are not holding Qureiris responsible for any deaths, they are still considering the harshest forms of execution for the 18-year-old, per CNN. This may include crucifixion or dismemberment after execution. Qureiris found out his prosecutors were thinking about execution months before his 18th birthday.
CNN also reported that another one of Qureiris’ brothers has been jailed and his father has been detained.
4. Amnesty International says the International Community Must Step in & Make a Public Stand Against Executions in Saudi Arabia
Along with Qureiris and Abdulkareem al-Hawaj, Ali al-Nimr, Abdullah al-Zaher and Dawood al-Marhoon were all minors at the time of their violations. They are all at risk of facing execution, as well.
“Instead of stepping up their use of the death penalty to silence critics Saudi Arabia’s authorities should immediately revoke the death sentences against Ali al-Nimr, Abdullah al-Zaher and Dawood al-Marhoon and save these young men’s lives. The international community also 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,” Lynn Maalouf said.
The European Saudi Organization for Human Rights (ESOHR) also spoke out about the “excessive use of force” by the Saudi government.
“ESOHR demands the Saudi government to release the child Murtaja Qureiris immediately, whose older brother was killed as a result of excessive use of force by Saudi Security in a demonstration in December 23, 2011, and his other brother is being held in prison since the 1st of June 2014,” the organization said in a statement.
5. Saudi Officials Frequently Characterize Anti-Government Protests as Violent
According to CNN, the UN Working Group for Arbitrary Detention found a case of a Saudi minor where the individual’s confession under Saudi observation matched the details of Qureiris’ detainment.
The UN Working Group said they believe the unidentified minor’s arrest was arbitrary so that they could torture the individual in order for him to confess. The UN Working group said the individual’s detainment had to do with “his participation in peaceful demonstrations calling for justice for some protestors who were killed and in the funerals of those martyrs.”
Saudi activist Mohammad Daman, who was there at several 2011 protests Qureiris participated in, said the objections were peaceful. He also claimed that the Saudi government did not have any photographic or video proof claiming otherwise.
Peaceful demonstrations were typically met with violent force, and any anti-government protests were characterized as violent by the Saudi government, per CNN.