A YOUNG man's head was chopped off in public — along with 36 others the same day — four years after demonstrating against Saudi Arabia’s hardline regime, it’s claimed.
Abdulkareem al-Hawaj was locked up aged 16 before being tortured and tried in a “sham trial”. Yesterday he was decapitated in a bloodbath that has shocked the world.
The young man was then let stew in jail for years, all the while knowing the grisly fate he faced. Repeated appeals failed.
As a teenage Shiite Muslim, a persecuted minority group in the Sunni dominated Saudi Arabia, he had been taking part in demonstration against government in the kingdom’s Eastern Province.
He was then arrested and accused of being a terrorist.
But Amnesty International says his trial was a farce because he made sign a confession after being tortured and threatened with having his family killed.
This admission was the sole basis for his conviction and he was denied a proper defence lawyer.
When the day finally arrived for his execution, Abdulkareem al-Hawaj was among 36 others who had their heads chopped off in public.
The killings were carried out in Riyadh, the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina, central Qassim province and Eastern Province, home to the country's Shiite minority.
'CALLOUS DISREGARD FOR HUMAN LIFE'
Lynn Maalouf, Middle East Research Director at Amnesty International, said the mass execution was a chilling demonstration of the Saudi Arabian authorities callous disregard for human life.
She said: “It is also yet another gruesome indication of how the death penalty is being used as a political tool to crush dissent from within the country’s Shiite minority.”
For Abdulkareem al-Hawaj’s family, perhaps it was consolation their son’s decapitated head and body was not impaled and put on display as a warning to others.
Others were not so fortunate.
The 37 citizens killed during beheading bloodbath had all been convicted of terrorism offences in the hardline kingdom. It emerged one man had even been crucified.
Saudi lawmakers insist the men were charged with "adopting terrorist extremist ideology, forming terrorist cells" and harming the "peace and security of society".
Those executed had been involved in attacking a base killing a number of security officers, the Saudi Press Agency statement said.
The slaughter of mainly minority Shiites is likely to stoke further regional and sectarian tensions between rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Saudi dissident Ali Al-Ahmed, who runs the Gulf Institute in Washington, identified 34 of those executed as Shiites based on the names announced by the Interior Ministry.
"This is the largest mass execution of Shiites in the kingdom's history," he said.
In fact it marked the largest number of executions in a single day in Saudi Arabia since January 2, 2016, when the kingdom executed 47 people for terrorism-related crimes.
The Interior Ministry's statement said those executed had adopted extremist ideologies and formed terrorist cells with the aim of spreading chaos and provoking sectarian strife.
It said the individuals had been found guilty according to the law and ordered executed by the Specialised Criminal Court in Riyadh, which handles terrorism trials, and the country's high court.
Amnesty International said 11 of the men were convicted of spying for Iran and sentenced to death after a "grossly unfair trial."
At least 14 others executed were convicted of violent offences related to their participation in anti-government demonstrations in Shiite-populated areas of Saudi Arabia between 2011 and 2012.
The Interior Ministry said the body of one of the executed men Khaled bin Abdel Karim al-Tuwaijri was publicly pinned to a pole.
The statement did not say in which city of Saudi Arabia the public display took place.
He appears to have been convicted as a Sunni militant, though the government did not give a detailed explanation of the charges against each individual executed.
Today's killings brings the number of people executed since the start of the year to around 100, according to official announcements.
Last year, the kingdom executed 149 people, most of them drug smugglers convicted of non-violent crimes, according to Amnesty's most recent figures.
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