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Saudi Arabia sentences Haidar Al Laif to death by confessions extracted under torture and an unfair trial

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After an unfair trial, the Specialized Criminal Court has issued a preliminary death sentence against detainee Haidar Al Laif. He joins dozens of detainees facing the death penalty at different stages of the legal process. The European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights (ESOHR) has been able to monitor the trials of some of them and has found that they are severely lacking in the conditions necessary for a fair trial.

Al Laif (born on 14 January 1976) is from Al-Awamiyah, a town in the governorate of Qatif, and works for a private company. The governorate police contacted him by phone on 1 May 2013, to question him without explanation. When he went there on 4 May 2013, the police immediately arrested him upon his arrival without providing the reasons for the arrest.

The government did not inform his family of his whereabouts or the reason for his arrest. After eight days, he contacted his family to say he was in the Mabahith General Prison in Dammam.

For the first two months of his arrest, Al Laif was placed in solitary confinement and was tortured by the interrogators and their assistants. He was forced to stand up for long hours and was beaten and kicked in various parts of his body. In addition, Al Laif was insulted and his beliefs were mocked and disrespected.

Al Laif refused to sign the confessions written by the interrogators, which caused them to threaten to bring his wife to the prison and make her divorce him. This pressure led him to sign the confession, after which he was taken out of solitary confinement, and his family was allowed to visit him.

Al Laif was not permitted to have a lawyer during the interrogation period. Only after the first three sessions of his trial before the Specialized Criminal Court for terrorism, was he allowed to have a court-appointed lawyer.

Several charges were leveled against him, including participating in demonstrations, repeating slogans that go against the state, destabilizing public safety, causing strife by his participation in riots, and targeting security personnel, as well as opening fire on the Awamiyah police building and hiding wanted individuals.

Although Al Laif denied the charges against him and confirmed to the judge that he had been subjected to torture, coercion, and psychological pressure, the judge completely ignored this and, on 28 January 2016, sentenced him to death as ata’zir punishment.

The ESOHR stresses that everything that Al Laif has been subjected to – from the moment of his arrest to the issuance of his death sentence – constitutes a violation of his rights, most notably torture and the lack of a fair trial as required by local and international laws.

The ESOHR notes that, during Al Laif’s trial, Saudi Arabia violated several of its international obligations, including the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which Saudi Arabia joined in 1997, and the Arab Charter on Human Rights. Violations include prosecuting Al Laif using confessions extracted under torture and sentencing him to death for charges that are not counted among the most serious crimes.

Speaking before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in March 2014, Saudi Arabia indicated that it does not apply the death penalty except for crimes of the most serious nature. This conflicts with the death sentences issued against Al Laif and dozens of others, some of which have been carried out, and some of which are still in the trial phase.

The ESOHR calls on the Saudi government to suspend the death penalty against detainee Haidar Al Laif, re-try him and all other detainees sentenced to death who did not receive a fair trial, and try those responsible for torture, in accordance with the Convention Against Torture.

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