Second Saudi juvenile faces beheading for anti-government protests

A second juvenile is now facing imminent beheading after a Saudi court upheld a conviction for his role in anti-government protests in the kingdom's Eastern Province.

Dawoud al-Marhoon was just 17 years old when he was arrested in May 2012 at the height of protests influenced by the Arab Spring. He was allegedly tortured and made to sign a confession that was later relied on to convict him, resulting in a death sentence by beheading.

British legal aid group Reprieve said on Tuesday that the Specialized Criminal Court had decided to uphold Dawoud's conviction and death sentence. With all legal avenues now exhausted, Dawoud could be executed by beheading at any time without prior notification to his family. Reprieve said Dawoud is being held in solitary confinement and has been barred from speaking with his lawyer, who was not allowed to attend secret hearings and was blocked from receiving information about appeal hearings.

The ruling by the Specialized Criminal Court means that at least two Saudi juveniles now face imminent execution for a role in anti-government protests. The same court decided last week to uphold a sentence of 'crucifixion' for Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, who was arrested during anti-government protests in February 2012 and tortured into a confession, which he later recanted. A sentence of crucifixion involves a prisoner being beheaded and his body being displayed in public.

The case of Ali al-Nimr led to international condemnation and calls to halt the execution.

"Ali al-Nimr's case has rightly prompted revulsion among the international community - it is therefore horrifying that the Saudi government is pushing ahead with plans to exact a similarly brutal sentence on another juvenile, Dawoud al-Marhoon," said Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at Reprieve. "It's also deeply disappointing to see the US and the UK - who are among the Saudis’ closest allies - failing to intervene strongly to stop these executions from going ahead."

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