DUBAI (AFP) – A Saudi Shiite teenager who was arrested at the age of 13 and faced the death penalty will not be executed, activists said Monday, after his case drew international criticism.
Saudi prosecutors had sought the death sentence for Murtaja Qureiris, now 18, for a series of offences including participating in anti-government protests, rights groups reported this month.
Some of those offences dated back to when Qureiris, who is from the kingdom’s minority Shiite community, was 10 years old, they said.
The teenager will not be executed and could be released by 2022, according to campaigners including the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights which has tracked his case for years.
The teenager has been sentenced to 12 years in prison, which includes time already served since his arrest and four years suspended, CNN reported citing a Saudi official.
That effectively leaves him with three more years in jail.
“The news that Murtaja Qureiris will not face execution is a huge relief for him and his family, but it is utterly outrageous that the Saudi Arabian authorities were seeking the death penalty for someone arrested under the age of 13 in the first place,” said Amnesty International’s Middle East research director Lynn Maalouf.
“Use of the death penalty against people under 18 at the time of the crime is a flagrant violation of international law.”
Last week, Austria’s government said it would implement a vote by MPs calling for the closure of a controversial Saudi-funded centre for religious dialogue in Vienna amid concerns over Qureiris’s possible execution.
Riyadh faces intense international scrutiny over its human rights record since journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder last October and the ongoing trial of detained women activists.