Saudi Arabia: Mass Death Sentences in ‘Unfair Spy Trial’

Death Sentences
Death Sentences

The condemning of 15 people to death by the Specialized Criminal Court Tuesday after a “grossly unfair trial” is a travesty of justice and a serious violation of human rights, said Amnesty International.

The men were among 32 people arrested across Saudi Arabia in 2013 and 2014 who were accused of spying for Iran. Fifteen others were sentenced to prison terms ranging from six months to 25 years and two were acquitted.

According to Amnesty, the men were charged with a series of offences including “high treason” with some facing several other ludicrous charges which should not be considered criminal offences such as “supporting protests”, “spreading the Shi’a faith” and “possessing banned books and videos”.

[ Also Read: How Death Penalty Is Used in Flawed Anti-Terror Drives ]

“Sentencing 15 people to death after a farcical trial which flouted basic fair trial standards is a slap in the face for justice. Time and again, Saudi Arabia’s justice system has been proven to be incapable of ensuring fairness and justice,” said Samah Hadid, deputy director for Campaigns at Amnesty International’s Beirut regional office.

“The death penalty is cruel, inhuman and degrading in any circumstances but it is even more shocking when people are sentenced to death after blatantly unfair trials. These death sentences must be immediately quashed and the accused must either be re-tried in line with international standards without resorting to the death penalty, or released.”

[ Also Read: Saudi Arabia Put 157 People to Death in 2015 ]

Those convicted were all Saudi Arabian nationals except for one Iranian national who was sentenced to four years in prison. An Afghan national was one of the two men acquitted.

In a letter submitted to the Specialized Criminal Court at the second session several of the lawyers said they would boycott the trial in protest the manner in which the trial was being conducted including the fact that they were not allowed to visit their clients, view evidence and prepare their defence adequately, Amnesty reported.

The lawyers also objected to the “media war” waged against the defendants. According to Amnesty, the Saudi Arabian authorities do not allow any critical or independent media to operate in the Kingdom.

Photo courtesy: Amnesty

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Rakesh Raman