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After long hiatus, court resumes trial of minors, and the prosecution insists the death penalty

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On 29 October 2020, the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh held a new hearing in the trial of eight detainees, including five minors.

According to reports received by ESOHR, the youngest defendant in this case, Mohammed Issam al-Faraj, did not attend the hearing for unknown reasons, and the hearing was characterized by secrecy.

This hearing is the first after a hiatus in the trial lasting more than seven months, for which the court has yet to publish an explanation. The trial of the eight youths had begun in the last months of 2019, two years after their arrest in June 2017.

The Public Prosecution lodged a series of charges against them, several of which date back to when they were minors and are related to participating in demonstrations, calling for protests, participating in funeral processions of victims of excessive state force, and concealing and arming fugitives.

Although five of the defendants are children (Ahmed Abdul Wahid al-Faraj, Ali Mohammed Al Bati, Mohammed Hussein Al Nimr, Ali Hassan al-Faraj, and Mohammed Issam al-Faraj), and the charges against them do not involve the most serious crimes under international law, the Public Prosecution has requested that they be sentenced to death despite the enactment of the Law on Juveniles in the meanwhile.

This case involves many violations. In addition to the extended period of detention before trial, ESOHR has monitored the exposure of several of the detainees to various forms of torture and ill treatment, resulting in the extraction of false confessions.

In April 2020, a royal order was issued that the Saudi Human Rights Commission said protects minors from the death penalty by applying the 2018 Law on Juveniles. The Commission repeated its claims recently, just days before the hearing in the trial of the minors. Despite this, the Public Prosecution has not altered its request for the death penalty against them. Moreover, no investigation has been made of any of the violations they suffered.

ESOHR notes that this latest hearing confirms that the lives of all minors remain at risk. Likewise, the statements of official Saudi agencies remain empty promises. Saudi Arabia has taken no serious and active steps to guarantee justice for all detainees, especially minors.

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