Some executed men in Saudi Arabia protested...
Saudi Arabia has executed 37 men convicted of terror-related crimes. One of the convicts was crucified, according to an interior ministry statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA). The majority of those executed were Shia men, according to Amnesty International, which dismissed the legal proceedings that led to the convictions as "sham trials that violated international fair trial standards which relied on confessions extracted through torture." The kingdom has repeatedly denied allegations of torture.
One of the largest mass executions in its history, some of the men condemned to death had made impassioned pleas to the courts in a bid to save their lives. Many said they were totally innocent, that their confessions had been written by the same people who had tortured them. Some claimed to have evidence of their abuse at the hands of their interrogators. And one reaffirmed loyalty to King Salman and his son, Mohammed bin Salman, in hopes of getting leniency from the court, trial documents show. None of these arguments swayed the judges overseeing their trials in 2016, and the suspects were convicted of terror-related crimes and sentenced to death. On Tuesday, Riyadh announced that 37 men had been executed, including three who were minors when the kingdom said they carried out their crimes.
The youngest of the executed men was Abdulkareem al-Hawaj. He was charged with participating in violent protests at the age of 16, and his death sentence sparked an outcry from the United Nations, which had urged the kingdom to overturn the ruling. Another was Mujtaba al-Sweikat, who was 17 when he took part in demonstrations that would lead to his arrest in 2012. He was detained at an airport in Dammam as he was preparing to board a plane to the United States, where he was set to enroll at Western Michigan University. Another 14 were convicted of forming a “terror cell” during anti-government protests in the largely Shia city of Awamiya in 2011 and 2012.
For the authorities, the trial of those men was an open and shut case the men had confessed, and “justice was served,” in the words of one Saudi official to CNN. But the documents obtained by CNN show that far from owning up to their confessions, some of the men in the Awamiya case repeatedly told the court that the admissions were false and had been obtained through torture. In some cases, the suspects said they had provided nothing more than their thumbprints to sign off on confessions which they claimed had been written by their torturers.
The Saudi government did not immediately respond to several requests for comment on the allegations of torture and forced confessions laid out in the court documents. In a statement about the executions, a Saudi official told CNN : “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has long ago adopted a zero-tolerance policy towards terrorists who spill the blood of the innocent, threaten the national security of the kingdom and distort our great faith. The convicted criminals who were executed today had their day in court and were found guilty of very serious crimes.”
Saudi Arabia has one of the highest death penalty rates in the world. It carried out one of its largest mass executions in January 2016, when 47 people were put to death, including prominent Shia leader Nimr al-Nimr. The executed prisoners were accused of terrorism and having extremist ideology. In recent years, the Crown Prince has ordered the rounding up of scores of activists, high-profile clerics, analysts, businessmen and princes, as well as women's rights defenders who were allegedly tortured and whom authorities accuse of "suspicious contact" with foreign entities.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a tweet: “After a wink at the dismembering of a journalist (Khashoggi), not a whisper from the Trump administration when Saudi Arabia beheads 37 men in one day...”