Rights activists fear for life of imprisoned teen in Saudi Arabia

A Saudi human rights organization has contacted RT over a case of a teenager, who was arrested in Saudi Arabia at the age of 13 because of his alleged participation in anti-government protests and held for several years in prison without charges.

Murtaja Algariras was jailed on September 20, 2014, and is held in prison since that time, Malik Alsaeed, a human rights activist from the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights (ESOHR) told RT in an interview.

The teenager was detained in connection to his alleged participation in the anti-government demonstrations that occurred in 2011. At that time, mass protests against discrimination of the Shias swept across the Saudi cities of Qatif, Hofuf, al-Awamiyah, and Riyadh. Saudi police violently dispersed the protesters killing many people. Hundreds were later detained on charges related to the 2011 incidents.

According to Human Rights Watch, more than 200 people from Shia-majority towns and villages in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province have gone on trial for alleged protest-related crimes since 2011.

Algariras was arrested for “participating in the protests and in funeral processions of those killed” by Saudi security forces during the rallies, Alsaeed told RT. His older brother, Ali, was killed by Saudi police in one such incidents.

ESOHR is particularly concerned by the fact that the teenager is kept in Dammam prison, known for its torture practices used by investigators and prison guards in order to extract confessions from detainees, an ESOHR 2014 report says.

Alsaeed also told RT that Algariras was repeatedly tortured and held in a confinement cell during his detention. The human rights organization considers him to be a political prisoner.

Now, human rights activists fear that Algariras could be “executed any time.” Saudi Arabia has recently sentenced 14 people to death, some of whom were charged with participation in anti-government protests, Alsaeed told RT.

Human rights activists fear that the Saudi authorities just wait till Algariras reaches the age of 18 in order to execute him pursuant to arbitrary court order, Alsaeed added, citing an example of another teenager, Abdulla al Zaher, who was sentenced to death for the participation in the 2011 protests.

According to Alsaeed, it is “normal” in Saudi Arabia to “keep people in detention for three or four years before trial.” The human rights activist also said that Saudi authorities are threatening the teenager’s family in attempts to prevent them from telling his story to the media.

Saudi authorities have not yet responded to the RT’s request for comment.
According to the Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) 2015 World Report on Saudi Arabia, the kingdom systematically violates rights of detainees, including children. The rights abuses include “arbitrary arrest and torture and ill-treatment in detention.”

“Judges can order arrest and detention, including of children, at their discretion. Children can be tried for capital crimes and sentenced as adults if physical signs of puberty exist,” the report says.