JNN 25 Dec 2015 Riyadh – Saudi Arabia is about to execute a Shia teenage boy for attending a protest rally against the ruling Al Saud monarchy as part of a heavy-handed crackdown on dissidents, a rights group says .
Abdullah al-Zaher, who is a member of Saudi Arabia’s Shia religious community, was just aged 15 when he was arrested after participating in the protest in March 2012, campaign group Reprieve has told the British daily, The Independent.
Saudi Arabia’s Specialized Criminal Court sentenced Zaher to death by beheading in October 2014, and his sentence was upheld last September with no notice given to his family or lawyer, it said.
Reprieve said Zaher, now 19 years old, has been moved to a prison 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) away from his family, and is to be executed along with 51 other people any day.
The teenager faces a range of charges, including “harboring” protesters, participating in demonstrations and chanting slogans and throwing petrol bombs.
His family says Zaher was shot and injured by security forces during the 2012 protest rally. He was beaten with wire iron rods while in detention, and forced to sign a confession that he had not read, without being able to speak to his family members or a lawyer.
The family has now approached international human rights groups in a last-ditch appeal for intervention in spite of potential repercussions from Saudi officials for speaking out, Reprieve said.
Zaher’s case is similar to those of Ali al-Nimr and Dawoud al-Marhoon, who were arrested by Saudi security forces in 2012 at the height of protests in the country’s Eastern Province, and then sentenced to beheading and crucifixion.
Amnesty International says Saudi Arabia executed 102 people in the first six months of this year.
Muslim scholars and clerics have on various occasions criticized Saudi authorities for indicting and then executing suspects without giving them a chance to defend themselves.