Saudi Arabia frees youngest prisoner at risk of execution – Middle East Monitor

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Saudi authorities have released Murtaja Qureiris, once thought to be the kingdom’s youngest political prisoner.

Qureiris, who belongs to the country’s Shia minority, was arrested in 2014 at the age of 13 for allegedly taking part in demonstrations at the age of 10 during the 2011 Arab Spring. His release was confirmed by a human rights group on Friday.

“Murtaja Qureiris, who had been imprisoned since 2014 when he was just 13 years old, was released when his sentence expired,” ALQST for human rights said on Twitter.

“Qureiris faced the death penalty and was later sentenced to eight years in prison, including for taking part in protests when he was 10,” the London-based group added.

Amnesty International in the Gulf said it was “happy” for Qureiris and his family.

READ: Saudi Arabia releases Shiite minor after commuting his death sentence

Qureiris, who originally faced the death penalty, was sentenced to 12 years in prison, probably because of the international attention his case received. His term was eventually reduced to eight, but he was now due to be released after serving his time.

In recent months, Saudi Arabia has released several young Shiite men from prison, including Ali Al-Nimr, who was also arrested as a minor for allegedly taking part in anti-government protests. His death sentence was also commuted.

Al-Nimr is the nephew of the late Shia cleric Nimr Al-Nimr, who was executed in 2016, which was widely condemned internationally and led to the severing of diplomatic ties between Riyadh and Tehran.

A 2020 royal decree abolished the death penalty for offenses committed when the accused was a minor. However, human rights groups have since raised concerns that this may not be respected in practice.

Last year, human rights groups criticized the kingdom for not overturning the death sentences of five people who were underage when they were charged.

READ: Saudi executes young Shia boy for ‘rebellion’ as a minor

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