A Saudi court has overturned a death sentence for a young man for crimes committed as a minor, after rights groups described the trial as “grossly unfair.”
This was announced by the family of the young man, Abdullah Al-Hwaiti, on Wednesday. And his mother wrote on Twitter, saying: “By the grace of God Almighty, then with the efforts of lawyer Abdulaziz Al-Shammari, the judgment of the Supreme Court on behalf of my young son, Abdullah Al-Hwaiti, was overturned.” She thanked everyone who stood by her.
The anti-death penalty charity Reprieve said that according to Saudi law, his case must now be retried.
Although he is no longer at risk of imminent execution, al-Huwaiti may still be sentenced to death at a later stage.
The government’s media office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, according to Reuters.
Al-Hwaiti was arrested when he was 14 years old, and he was sentenced to death three years later on charges related to murder and robbery, along with five other defendants, in a case closely followed by human rights groups.
Human Rights Watch and Reprieve said that the six defendants in the Al-Huwaiti case told the court during their trial that interrogators extracted their confessions under torture or under threat of torture.
In 2020, the Saudi authorities abolished a death sentence for minors, and said they would apply this retroactively.
The kingdom’s state-backed Human Rights Commission later clarified that this applies only to perpetrators of a lower category of crimes under Islamic law, the punishment of which is known as “ta’zir”.
This means that judges can still sentence child offenders to death under the other two categories, according to the kingdom’s interpretation of Sharia, “hudud,” or serious crimes punishable by law, including terrorism, and “qisas,” which is usually applied to a murderer.
Al-Huwaiti was convicted of a charge within the border category.
“We are still concerned about Abdullah Al-Hwaiti’s life despite the Supreme Court ruling,” said Taha Al-Hajji, a Saudi lawyer working with the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights.
Last month, Saudi authorities released Ali al-Nimr, a young Shiite whose death sentence was commuted to 10 years in prison under the kingdom’s legislative reforms.