David Cameron has been urged to intervene to save the lives of two men in Saudi Arabia who are facing “imminent execution” after being accused of taking part in protests when they were minors.
In a letter penned by Sir Peter Bottomley, and co-signed by eight cross-party MPs and peers, the Foreign Secretary has been asked to make a public call for the executions to be halted and to “leverage” Britain’s “close and vital relationship” with Saudi Arabia.
The two young men, Abdullah Al Derazi and Youssef Al Manasif, were both arrested after they had turned 18. However, their alleged crimes relate to attending anti-government protests over the treatment of the Shia minority which dates back to when they were as young as 15.
Multiple rights groups have said that their sentences were upheld following “grossly unfair” trials and “torture-tainted confessions”.
“Recent developments in the prison where they are held indicate they may be executed at any moment,” the letter, seen exclusively by The Telegraph, read.
“We respectfully request that you make a public call for their executions to be halted, and for their death sentences to be overturned in line with the Saudi Government’s legal obligations and its promises to stop executing child defendants.”
Preparing inmates for execution
As prime minister in 2015, Lord Cameron said that he would personally intervene against the imminent execution of another child protester on Saudi’s secretive death row, Ali Al Nimr, who was set to imminently be beheaded. When his sentence was commuted, the foreign secretary at the time, Philip Hammond, suggested it was a victory of British diplomacy.
Saudi Arabia has repeatedly declared in recent years that it has abolished the death penalty for child defendants. All of the charges against the young men are non-lethal and do not meet the “most serious crimes” threshold for the death penalty to be applied.
Abdallah, whose death sentence has been upheld by the Supreme Court, spent two weeks in a coma following the torture he faced during his arrest in 2014, his court records show. His charges include “burning tyres” and attending a funeral when he was 17.
According to the European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights (ESOHR), which monitors and investigates Saudi’s opaque death row, Dammam Investigations Prison, which holds both Abdullah and Youssef, is preparing inmates for execution.
A relative of Youssef, whose identity has been hidden due to fear of reprisal, described the family as “desperate”.
Last week, an inmate in Dammam, who was accused of similar crimes to the two young men, was executed without warning, prompting campaigners to raise the alarm over the two child defendants.
Witnesses have told ESOHR that death row detainees in Dammam have also been photographed recently, which they believe to be an indicator of imminent execution.