Saudi Arabia releases second man sentenced to death for childhood 'crimes'

Saudi Arabia releases second man sentenced to death for childhood 'crimes'
Abdullah Al-Zaher was sentenced to death for 'crimes' he committed as a child, including taking part in street protests, but has now been released after his death sentence was commuted to a prison term.
2 min read
14 November, 2021
Human right groups have continually protested Saudi Arabia's imprisonment of activists and dissidents [Getty]

Saudi authorities have released Adbullah al-Zaher, a young man who had been sentenced to death for "crimes" he allegedly committed as a child, human rights activists announced today.

Al-Zaher was among a dozen young men who have been convicted by the Saudi judiciary for crimes they allegedly committed during childhood. He is the second to be released by Saudi authorities after Ali al-Nimr, who was arrested in 2012  at the age of sixteen for taking part in street protests. 

"Those still detained for alleged crimes committed as children include Daoud al-Marhoun, Abdullah al-Huwaiti, Ahmad al-Faraj, Ali al-Batti, Mohamed al-Nimr, Ali al-Faraj, Mohammed al-Faraj, Ali al-Mabyook, Sajjad al-Yasin, & Yousef al-Manasif," Human Rights Watch researched Hiba Zayadin wrote on Twitter.  "Some may still face the death penalty."

Like Iran, Saudi Arabia allows children to be tried, sentenced to death and executed for offences committed before adulthood.

Hope for al-Zaher and al-Nimr first came in 2018 with a new law prohibiting the death penalty for child offenders, although the law was only applied in around 20% of cases where children were convicted.

A 2020 decree allowed the law to be applied retroactively, opening the way to remove the death sentence looming over al-Zaher and others who stood trial before 2018. 

On February 8, the Saudi Human Rights Commission announced that the death sentence against several of these prisoners, including al-Zaher and al-Nimr, had been commuted to 10-year prison terms. The other prisoners are expected to be released once they complete their term in jail.

Human rights activists continue to highlight the dire situation of human rights in Saudi Arabia. Many prisoners were sentenced as children on the basis of forced confessions.