That country’s barbarism is well documented. But Mehdi Hasan writes that it continues to sink even lower, now threatening to execute someone for an offense that was committed when he was just ten years old.
IN 2011, as Arab Spring protests swept across the Middle East, demonstrations also kicked off in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich Eastern Province. Members of the kingdom’s repressed Shiite minority took to the streets, calling for equal rights and a fairer distribution of oil revenues. The protesters included a group of around 30 kids on bicycles. As a video released last week by CNN shows, those children were led by a smiling 10-year-old in flip-flops named Murtaja Qureiris.
“The people demand human rights!” the young boy can be seen shouting through a megaphone.
Here’s the problem: Demanding human rights in Saudi Arabia lands you in prison. Even if you’re a kid.
Three years later, in September 2014, 13-year-old Murtaja was arrested while on his way to neighboring Bahrain with his family.
“At the time,” reports CNN, “he was considered by lawyers and activists to be the youngest known political prisoner in Saudi Arabia.
Over the past four years, say human rights groups, this teenager has been subjected to torture and intimidation, as well as a spell in solitary confinement. He has been denied access to a lawyer while interrogators try to get him to confess to the trumped-up charges against him. These 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,’ throwing Molotov cocktails at a police station, and firing at security forces,” according to Amnesty International.
Last week, we learned that Saudi prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for 18-year-old Murtaja, who is being tried in an anti-terror court. CNN reports that the prosecutors want to “impose the harshest form of the death penalty, which may include crucifixion or dismemberment after execution.”
Got that? The unelected government of a close ally of the United States is planning on brutally executing an 18-year-old member of a minority group, for crimes allegedly committed when he was 10 years old.
Let me repeat: Ten. Years. Old.
Supporters of MBS often try and argue that these executions are the product of decisions made in court, not in the royal palace. This is a laughable defense. The kingdom of Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy. There is no independent judiciary. As CNN reports, “The death penalty can only be enforced by order of King Salman or his authorized representative. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is frequently characterized as the King’s deputy.”
This latest atrocity can be laid at the feet of Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), already known as a butcher for the murder of reporter Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey. And his crimes do not end at just extra-judicial killings and judicial executions of the most barbaric type. He is also the architect, with US support, of the murderous war in Yemen that has caused enormous suffering.
But bin Salman is a friend of Donald Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner and has been at the receiving end (at least until his role in the the Khashoggi murder came to light) of fawning praise from US media for his largely cosmetic ‘reforms’ so he will not face any condemnation or even mild criticism from the ruling classes in the US.