Arrested at 13, He Faced Execution. Now He's Free

Murtaja Qureiris, said to be youngest Saudi prisoner for political protest, reportedly out of prison
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 7, 2019 5:15 PM CDT
Updated Jun 25, 2022 6:30 AM CDT
Man Arrested at 13 Faces Execution for Saudi Protests
Saudi Shiite protesters chant slogans during a demonstration in Qatif, Saudi Arabia, in 2011.   (AP Photo)

(Newser) Update: Murtaja Qureiris is now a free man. Human rights activists say the 21-year-old, who was arrested in Saudi Arabia at age 13 after being accused of participating in Arab Spring protests three years earlier, has been released from prison, reports CNN. Qureiris, who once faced the death penalty for his alleged infractions, is believed to have been the youngest person ever detained in the kingdom for taking part in political protests. He's said to have been just 10 when he allegedly committed one of his crimes. Qureiris' death sentence was eventually amended to an eight-year prison sentence, perhaps partly because of the international outcry over his age, notes the BBC. Saudi Arabia issued a royal decree in 2020 that got rid of the death penalty for minors, though human rights groups aren't so sure that decree is being followed. Our original story from June 2019 follows:

Murtaja Qureiris, who was arrested at age 13 for participating in protests in eastern Saudi Arabia, is now facing execution at age 18. Saudi authorities arrested him three years after the 2011 Arab Spring protests, CNN reports; he has spent nearly four years in pretrial detention. He was 10 when at least one of the offenses he's charged with was committed: accompanying his brother on a motorcycle ride to a police station in the city of Awamiya, where his brother allegedly threw Molotov cocktails at the building. CNN said it has seen video footage of Qureiris, when he was 10, leading a group of about 30 boys on bicycles in a protest and shouting, "The people demand human rights!" into a megaphone.

Amnesty International said it has confirmed that prosecutors have sought the death penalty against Qureiris. That shows, an official said, that Saudi Arabia will do anything to stop dissent, including "resorting to the death penalty for men who were merely boys at the time of their arrest." Executing a person younger than 18 is against international law, the organization said. Other charges against Qureiris, who is awaiting his next appearance in court, include marching at the funeral of his brother, who was killed in a protest in 2011. Qureiris has denied the charges, per CNN, and said his confessions were obtained under duress. (Read more Saudi Arabia stories.)

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