Ten Nobel Peace Prize winners are appealing to Saudi Arabia’s king and crown prince to show mercy and halt the executions of 14 young Shiites sentenced to death for participating in protests in 2012.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have accused Saudi authorities of coercing confessions which were later retracted in court and of failing to grant fair trials to defendants, including juveniles.
The 14 face execution for protests and violence against security forces. Among the 14, all minority Shiite Muslims, is Mujtaba al-Sweikat, who was detained at a Saudi airport on his way to the United States to attend Western Michigan University.
Signed by anti-apartheid leader Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Yemeni activist Tawakkul Karman, Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi and former East Timor president Jose Ramos-Horta, the letter released late Friday, August 11, 2017, urged King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, his son, to "extend the hand of mercy" and refrain from ratifying the death sentences.
The laureates said al-Sweikat was 18 when he was arrested on charges including supervising a group on Facebook and photographing the demonstrations. The letter said al-Sweikat’s shoulder was broken while his confession was being coerced.
"Another defendant, Ali al-Nimr, was charged with setting up a Blackberry page named 'The Liberals' and posting photos of the demonstrations, inviting people to participate," the letter read.
Other signatories to Friday's letter include US anti-landmine activist Jody Williams, Indian children's rights activist Kailash Satyarthi, South African former president F.W. De Klerk, Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee, Polish labour rights activist Lech Walesa and peace activist Mairead Maguire of Northern Ireland.
Ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia has one of the world's highest rates of execution. This year alone, it has so far executed 75 people.