Set to execute 14 dissenters, Saudi Arabia defends its judicial system

Rights group says convictions handed down by a ‘secretive’ counterterrorism court using ‘confessions extracted through torture’

Illustrative: A Saudi executioner displays his sword. (YouTube/MEMRITVVideos)
Illustrative: A Saudi executioner displays his sword. (YouTube/MEMRITVVideos)

Saudi Arabia’s government, facing mounting criticism for the planned execution of 14 Shiite Muslims, has issued a rare statement defending its judicial system.

Ministry of Justice spokesman Mansour al-Qafari says all defendants facing trial in Saudi Arabia receive due process.

In a statement published Friday in the Saudi Press Agency, al-Qafari says terrorism-related cases and death penalty verdicts are reviewed by an appeals court and the supreme court, with a total of 13 judges reviewing the case before an execution is carried out.

The 14 men face execution for protests and violence against security forces. Rights group Reprieve says the initial judgment came from a “secretive” counterterrorism court that “used confessions extracted through torture as the basis of convictions.”

One of the convicts, Munir al-Adam, was only 18 at the time of his arrest in 2012, allegedly for confronting police. His mother told The Washington Post that he was tortured during the first three months of his detention.

“He has been ordered to stand for long intervals of time,” the mother, Zahraa Abdullah, said. “He was beaten with sticks and cables. He was electrocuted and prevented from eating or going to the bathroom.”

Ultraconservative Sunni clerics in Saudi Arabia have in the past referred to Shiites as apostates, and Shiite protesters have been accused of being allied with the kingdom’s rival, Iran.

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