RIYADH (Dispatches) – Saudi Arabia has executed a young man on charges of participating in anti-regime protests in the Shia-majority city of Qatif in Eastern Province, according to media reports.
Citing the Saudi Arabian Interior Ministry on Tuesday, Lebanon’s al-Ahed news website identified the victim as Ahmed bin Saeed bin Ali al-Janabi from the village of Qudeih, located north of Qatif.
The ministry claimed that the youth had had a “preliminary sentence” issued against him on charges of alleged insurrection against the country’s establishment and non-compliance with government authorities.
Al-Ahed, however, described the manner of the execution as “sudden.”
Prominent Saudi lawyer and human rights activist Taha al-Haji also said al-Janabi’s name had not been included in the list of the people who faced the threat of execution.
No death sentence, he added, had been issued against him in the court of first instance, let alone such a sentence being upheld by the kingdom’s appellate and supreme courts.
Shia Muslims comprise the majority of the population in the Eastern Province in a country that takes pride in holding onto the extremist Wahhabi school of thought as its official ideology.
The province has, over years, been witnessing daring protests in the face of a marginalization campaign led by Riyadh against the Shia faithful.
Amnesty International said on Tuesday Saudi Arabia launched a “relentless crackdown” on dissidents after the end of its G20 presidency.
Riyadh led the global forum last year and pushed through some changes, claiming to have scrapped the death sentence for minors and abolished floggings, but a new report by the rights group said authorities had “brazenly intensified the persecution of human rights defenders and dissidents and stepped up executions over the past six months.”
The rights group said that since handing over the G20 presidency, the kingdom had executed at least 40 people between January and June 2021, more than the total number of executions for all of 2020.
It has also either prosecuted, sentenced, or ratified the sentences of at least 13 people following trials before the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC), the rights group said.
Amnesty also noted that the SCC trials are “intrinsically unfair”, with defendants held incommunicado in some cases, while some convictions are reportedly based on “confessions” extracted through torture.
“As soon as the G20 spotlight on Saudi Arabia faded the authorities resumed their ruthless pursuit of people who dare to express their opinions freely or criticize the government,” said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East Deputy Director.
“The brief respite in repression coinciding with Saudi Arabia’s hosting of the G20 summit last November indicates that any illusion of reform was simply a PR drive.”