Saudi minor receives second death sentence, UN cries foul
A Saudi, who was sentenced to death and tortured into signing a false confession when he was a minor, has been taken to hospital after going on hunger strike following his second death sentence in his retrial, a rights group and family members confirmed on Saturday.
Abdullah Al-Howaiti was only 14 when he was arrested in 2017 on alleged charges of armed robbery and killing a police officer in Saudi Arabia’s northern Tabuk Province.
He was tortured and forced to confess to the alleged crimes although he had an alibi, and his family said that camera footage showed he was not at the crime scene.
Britain-based campaign group Reprieve reported Saturday that Al-Howaiti had been put into solitary confinement and had fallen sick.
“Abdullah has gone on hunger strike and has been hospitalized after collapsing,” Reprieve said.
Last week, his mother had tweeted he had gone on a hunger strike and was refusing to take his medication after he was put in solitary confinement.
Renewed death sentence
Al-Howaiti was first sentenced to death in 2019, with five other defendants handed 15-year prison terms for allegedly aiding and abetting.
But the ruling was last year overturned by the supreme court, which called for a retrial.
In his retrial, he was once again found guilty and was earlier this month sentenced to death for a second time.
Saudi human rights group ALQST condemned the renewed death sentence, saying the trial was “grossly unfair”.
UN wants revocation of death sentence
UN-appointed independent human rights experts on Tuesday called for Saudi Arabia to immediately release Abdullah al-Howaiti and quash the death sentence against him for crimes he allegedly committed as a child.
“We are alarmed by the confirmation of the death sentence against Mr. Al-Howaiti, on 2 March 2022, without initiating any investigation into the allegations of torture or determining the veracity of the coerced confession of guilt,” the experts said.
If the Court of Appeal confirms the conviction, Mr. Al-Howaiti will be at an imminent risk of execution.
From failing to consider an alibi, to dismissing allegations of torture and ill-treatment, and admitting torture-tainted confessions as incriminating evidence without properly investigating, the experts were dismayed by the conviction after a trial marred with such due process irregularities.
“We would like to remind the Saudi authorities of their obligation to conduct a prompt and impartial investigation wherever there are reasonable grounds to believe that torture has been committed, and to exclude any evidence obtained through torture and coercion from judicial proceedings,” the experts said.
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