Saudi Arabia: release of Murtaji Qureis, youngest political detainees in the country
On Friday 24 June 2022, Saudi authorities on Friday released Murtaji Qureis, the kingdom’s youngest political detainee, according to reliable Saudi human rights sources.
Alkarama had addressed the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, expressing concern about the situation of Murtaji Qureis. He was arrested in September 2014 while he was only a child aged 13 for having participated in protests and demonstrations in the country.
After Murtaji’s arrest, he was held incommunicado for a month, beaten during interrogation by the Dammam Detectives and had to confess to all charges.
Alkarama expressed its concern to the UN experts about the Murtaji’s case and feared the outcome of Murtaji’s unfair trial in a communication that requested the experts to intervene with the Saudi authorities to demand that the minor’s case be reviewed. Among its requests, Alkarama highlighted that the teenager should be immediately released, that his confessions obtained under duress should not be taken into account, and that an independent investigation into allegations of torture be opened.
Alkarama also referred the case to the Committee on the Rights of the Child during its review of Saudi Arabia, asserting that the arrest and detention of Murtaji constituted a flagrant violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which stipulates in it article 37 that “No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” and that “no child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily”.
The release of Murtaji Qureis comes as a royal decree was taken to annul the death penalty sentence for persons who have committed crimes while minors.
Murtaji Qureis appeared in court four years after his arrest and still before his 18th birthday and prosecutors demanded that he be sentenced to death.
Prosecutors alleged that Murtaji Qureis belonged to an “extremist terrorist group” and committed acts of violence during the protests, including his alleged assistance in preparing Molotov cocktails, charges that he kept denying entirely.
On the basis of these allegations, Murtaji Qureis was sentenced early 2020, by a Saudi court to eight years in prison.