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Abdullah al-Zaher Spends another Birthday on Death Row in Saudi Arabia

Abdullah al-Zaher

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Abdullah Hasan al-Zaher turns 22 today – his 7th birthday spent in prison, and his fourth birthday spent on death row after he was arrested in 2012 because of his participation in a peaceful protest. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) and the European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights (ESOHR) call on the government of Saudi Arabia to immediately release Abdullah, drop all charges against him, and institute a moratorium on the use of the death penalty with a view towards abolition.

Abdullah al-Zaher was only 15 years old when he was arrested by Saudi police on 3 March 2012 for his participation in a peaceful protest. Saudi authorities did not present a warrant. During his arrest, Saudi police shot at Abdullah before beating him in the street with their weapons. Al-Zaher was then transferred to Awwamiyya city police station, where he was beaten by officers, with wire iron all over his body so that the effects were visible. He was subsequently transferred to Qatif police station for investigation and then transferred on to the social observation house (Juvenile detention centre), which is a dedicated prison for children. The authorities resumed the interrogation by officers, and then he was forced to sign a paper without reading it or consulting with his family.

Authorities held Abdullah in pre-trial detention for nearly two years during which time authorities severely restricted his access to his lawyer. He was eventually brought before a judge prior to his trial, but only so that the court could provide him with the list of charges against him. Abdullah’s lawyer was not present at the time. Throughout Abdullah’s trial, his lawyer was unable to access the evidence against him. On 21 October 2014, Saudi Arabia’s Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) sentenced Abdullah to death. He was 18 at the time of his sentencing, and is currently at risk of being executed at any time, although Saudi Arabia is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Article 37 of which calls on State Parties to ensure that “No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” and also that no child shall be sentenced to capital punishment.

“Abdullah al-Zaher was just a child when he was arrested and tortured into confessing to crimes he did not commit. Saudi Arabia is ignoring its obligations under the CRC to refrain from using torture or capital punishment against children – solely to punish a minor for reportedly participating in a peaceful protest,” says Husain Abdulla, Executive Director of ADHRB. “This birthday marks yet another year Abdullah has been unlawfully detained and at risk of imminent execution. The international community must step up and hold Saudi Arabia accountable to its international treaty commitments and call for Abdullah al-Zaher’s immediate release.”

Abdullah must not be allowed to spend another year in prison awaiting an unjust death sentence. ADHRB and ESOHR call on Saudi Arabia to immediately release him and to drop all charges against him, we further call on Saudi Arabia to respect and uphold its international obligations, including those outlined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and to institute a moratorium on capital punishment with a view towards its abolition.

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