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Saudi Arabia executes head of household, 16 months after confirming to the United Nations a final sentence of eight years in prison

Haidar Al Laif

لقراءته بالعربية اضغط هنا

On April 23, 2019, as part of a mass execution of 37 citizens, the Saudi government put to death Haydar Al Leif (born January 14, 1976) despite having previously assured UN special rapporteurs, in December 2017, that his death sentence had been overturned and his final sentence was eight years in prison.

Al Leif was arrested on May 4, 2013, immediately upon his appearance at the Qatif central police station, where he was summoned for interrogation with no explanation. The government did not inform his family of his whereabouts or the reason for his arrest. After eight days, he was allowed to contact family members to inform them he was in the Mabahith General Prison in Dammam.

During his first two months of detainment, Al Leif was in solitary confinement and was tortured by the interrogators and their assistants. He was forced to stand for long hours and hit and kicked in various parts of his body. In addition, he was insulted and mocked for his religious beliefs.

Al Leif refused to sign the confessions written by the investigators, who in turn threatened to bring his wife to the prison and force her to divorce him. After torture, threats, and pressure, he was forced to sign the confessions, after which he was released from solitary confinement, and his family was permitted to visit him.

Al Leif was not allowed to retain a lawyer during the investigation phase, and the court only appointed him a lawyer after three hearings of his trial before the Specialized Criminal Court for terrorism cases. There is little benefit to a lawyer before the terrorism court, especially when the lawyer is chosen by the court.

Al Leif faced several charges, including participating in demonstrations, repeating anti-state slogans, disturbing public safety, participating in riots, and targeting security personnel. He was also charged with firing on the Awamiyah police station and harboring fugitives.

Although Al Leif denied the charges against him and confirmed to the judge that he had been subjected to torture, coercion, and psychological pressure, the judge disregarded this. On January 28, 2016, the judge sentenced him to death as ata’zir penalty [discretionary penalty in Islamic law].

On July 28, 2017, Al Leif was part of a complaint sent to Saudi Arabia by UN special rapporteurs, noting the abuses he had suffered and their concern for his life. On December 13, 2017, the Saudi government replied to the complaint and the violations noted in Al Leif’s case. In its response, Saudi Arabia denied the information about the torture of Al Leif and his ill-treatment to extract confessions. Most importantly, the government confirmed that the death sentence had been overturned and Al Leif was given a final sentence of eight years in prison.

Despite this clear official response, 16 months later, on April 23, 2019, Saudi Arabia beheaded Al Leif, as part of a mass execution of 37 citizens. This occurred without notifying his family, and his body was not handed over to them. The latter is a systematic process on the part of the Saudi government in the era of King Salman to conceal the bodies of victims of execution; since the beginning of 2016, 83 bodies have been withheld.

The ESOHR believes that the case of Al Leif is one of the clearest evidences of the deception, lies, and misinformation perpetuated by Saudi Arabia before UN human rights bodies and the international community. His case also highlights the impossibility of trusting Saudi Arabia’s written or verbal promises, or any official declaration or statement. The ESOHR stresses the importance of not closing Al Leif’s case, while Saudi Arabia has not provided any comment on his execution, despite its previous assurance that his sentence had changed, and while the pain of his family, and the other families of victims of arbitrary execution, is ongoing due to the withholding of their loved ones’ bodies.

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