Saudi on death row for teenage crime on hunger strike

Saudi on death row for teenage crime on hunger strike
Abdullah al-Howaiti, a Saudi man who was imprisoned at the age of 14 on charges of armed robbery and killing a police officer, has started a hunger strike to protest his death sentence.
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Abdullah al-Howaiti has started his hunger strike [File photo: Getty]

A Saudi man sentenced to death when he was a minor has been taken to hospital after going on hunger strike, a rights group and family members said Saturday.

Abdullah al-Howaiti was just 14 when he was arrested in 2017 on charges of armed robbery and killing a police officer in Saudi Arabia's northern Tabuk province.

Britain-based campaign group Reprieve said Saturday that Howaiti had been put into solitary confinement, and had fallen sick.

"Abdullah has gone on hunger strike and has been hospitalised after collapsing," Reprieve said.

Last week, his mother had tweeted he had gone on a hunger strike, and was refusing to take his medication after he was put in solitary confinement.

He was first sentenced to death in 2019, with five other defendants handed 15-year prison terms for allegedly aiding and abetting.

But the ruling was last year overturned by the supreme court, who called for a retrial.

In that trial, he was again found guilty and was earlier this month sentenced to death for a second time.

Saudi human rights group ALQST condemned the renewed death sentence, saying the trial was "grossly unfair".

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In April 2020, the kingdom announced it was ending the death penalty for those convicted of crimes committed while they were under 18.

But ALQST said that since "the alleged offence took place when Howaiti was only 14" it showed the "Saudi authorities' continued application of the death penalty against minors."

The wealthy Gulf country has one of the world's highest execution rates.

Saudi Arabia said Saturday it executed 81 people in one day for a variety of terrorism-related offences, exceeding the total number it sentenced to death in total all last year.