Are there crimes in Saudi Arabia
What looked like a day trip by bike could end fatally for Murtaja Qureiris. In 2011, the then ten-year-old Saudi Arab took part in a bicycle demonstration in a village in the eastern province of Al-Qatif. He wears a dark blue shirt and slippers, plays with the pedal of his bicycle, with dozens of children around him. Shortly afterwards, he is said to have demanded compliance with human rights through a megaphone. When he was 13, Murtaja Qureiris was imprisoned in Saudi Arabia for this, among other things. Now the 18-year-old faces the death penalty, as reported by CNN and the human rights organization Amnesty International. According to Amnesty, the charges against the teenager are based on a confession he allegedly made under torture. He is accused of having participated in demonstrations and of being a member of a terrorist organization and of throwing incendiary devices at a police station.
Murtaja Qureiris comes from an opposition family. One of his brothers was killed during the protests, and his father is also in custody. The majority of Shiites live in the oil-rich Eastern Province and see themselves discriminated against by the Sunni royal family. About 15 percent of the Saudi population are Shiites, they are demanding greater participation in the country's oil wealth and structural equality in everyday life. The formative influence of the ultra-conservative Islamic interpretation of Wahabiism pushed the Shiites to the margins of society for decades. In 2011, in the wake of the Arab Spring, demonstrations flared up in the east. Since then there have been repeated protests.
But the royal family in Riyadh does not tolerate protests critical of the government and, under the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is taking a hard hand against Shiite opposition members. As recently as April, Saudi Arabia had 37 people executed, mostly Shiite opposition members - and three people convicted of alleged crimes before the age of 18. The accusation was again "terrorism". International law prohibits the death penalty against minors. But in Saudi Arabia you are of criminal age at the age of twelve.
A possible execution of the young man could set further political explosives in the Persian Gulf. The conflict between Saudi Arabia and archenemy Iran has rocked. In Riyadh, Iran is blamed for the drone attack on an oil pipeline in mid-May. Past executions, such as that of the prominent Shiite scholar Nimr al-Nimr in 2016, sparked angry protests among Shiites. Iran and Saudi Arabia claim the role of protecting power, Iran for the Shiites and Saudi Arabia for the Sunnis. Protesters in Tehran stormed the Saudi embassy and set it on fire. Saudi Arabia then broke off diplomatic relations with Iran.
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