Relatives plead for British foreign secretary's intervention to stop Saudi death sentences

Relatives plead for British foreign secretary's intervention to stop Saudi death sentences
Relatives of two men sentenced to death over accusations they perpetrated offences when children in Saudi Arabia have called on British foreign secretary Dominic Raab to bring up their case on his visit to the country.
2 min read
07 June, 2021
Dominic Raab visited Saudi Arabia on Monday [David Cliff/NurPhoto/Getty]

Relatives of two men sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia have pleaded for British foreign secretary Dominic Raab to discuss their situation during his visit to the country.

They were given their sentences for offences allegedly perpetrated as children, The Times reported on Monday.

The state-owned Saudi Press Agency reported that Raab had met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom's de facto ruler, in Neom, a controversial 'smart-city' still under construction in north-western Saudi Arabia.

Campaign organisations have said that Saudi officials have previously been receptive to UK pleas for reprieve in death penalty cases.

The kingdom said in 2020 it would cancel the death sentence of anyone found guilty of a crime they purportedly committed as a child, though exceptions exist.

However, on Thursday a Saudi court upheld the death sentence of Mustafa Hashim Al-Darwish, who was detained as a child in 2015 for participating in demonstrations and committing "terror" offences.

"Offences" of this nature are covered by the 2020 ban, and The Times says people in similar circumstances have had their sentences commuted.

However Darwish's relatives say that there is  nowan "immediate risk" of his death sentence being carried out.

Speaking via the human rights organisation Reprieve they stated, "We received the tragic news that the supreme court has upheld the death sentence on Thursday after desperately trying to obtain information for months.

"Courage from Mr Raab in raising Mustafa's case could ensure that his execution does not go ahead."

The second man at risk of the death penalty is Abdullah Al-Hawaiti, who was found guilty of armed robbery and murder, in 2017 and 2019 respectively.

Murder is not covered by the 2020 ban on the implementation of the death penalty.

Al-Hawaiti says that he was forced to confess to the alleged crimes under torture and his family claim that CCTV evidence shows that he was not at the scene.

The Saudi Press Agency said Raab and bin Salman had spoken about events in the Middle East and security considerations, among other matters.

The agency did not mention whether the two officials had talked about the Al-Darwish or Al-Huwaiti cases.

Saudi Arabia has long come under fire over its human rights record.

In addition to its use of the death penalty, campaigners have decried Saudi Arabia's detention and torture of political dissidents such as prominent women's rights activists Loujain Al-Hathloul.

Al-Hathloul spent just over 1,000 days incarcerated.

Following her release, she subsequently lost a court battle in March to have her international travel ban, which lasts for five years, overturned.