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UK foreign secretary urged to intervene in Saudi Arabia death penalty cases

Mustafa Hashim al-Darwish and Abdullah al-Huwaiti face the death penalty for crimes they reportedly committed while minors
UK foreign minister Dominic Raab met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Monday.
UK foreign minister Dominic Raab met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Monday (AFP)

The relatives of two men awaiting execution in Saudi Arabia have asked British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to press for their release while he visits the kingdom.

Last Thursday, a Saudi court upheld the death sentence of Mustafa al-Darwish, who was detained as a child in 2015 for allegedly participating in anti-government riots in the Shia majority Eastern Province.

According to court documents, Darwish was subjected to prolonged pre-trial detention, torture and a grossly unfair trial.

Darwish's relatives said on Monday that there was an "immediate risk" of his death sentence being carried out.

"We received the tragic news that the supreme court has upheld the death sentence on Thursday after desperately trying to obtain information for months," they said, speaking through the human rights organisation Reprieve, as quoted by The Times on Monday.

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

Raab met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Monday, where he said the two discussed "shared interests including trade, Iran and climate change".

It was not mentioned whether the foreign secretary brought up the issue of minors facing the death penalty.

The second man at risk of the death penalty is Abdullah al-Huwaiti, who was convicted on murder and armed robbery charges by a criminal court in October 2019 when he was 17, along with five other defendants.

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

UN human rights experts have also expressed "deep concern" over Huwaiti's status on death row. They said he was convicted of a "crime allegedly committed when he was a minor and is now facing execution following a trial marred by torture allegations".

Last April, Saudi King Salman issued a royal decree ending death sentences for crimes committed as a minor, instead making the maximum sentence 10 years in a juvenile detention facility.

Still, rights groups have raised concerns about its implementation and previously warned that several youths still face the death penalty.

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