By Patrick Knox and Mark Hodge26th April 2019, 10:44 am
Updated: 27th April 2019, 8:03 pm
A YOUNG lad was tortured with electricity and beheaded in Saudi Arabia because he sent WhatsApp messages about a protest aged 16.
Abdulkarim al-Hawaj, 21, was a schoolboy when he was detained and accused of being a “terrorist” for sending texts online about an anti-government demonstration.
He was a Shiite Muslim – which is a persecuted minority group in Sunni-dominated Saudi – living in the troubled Eastern province.
Abdulkareem al-Hawaj was just 16 when he was arrested
Abdulkarim was beaten and tortured with electricity while his hands were chained above his head when he “confessed” to his crimes, human rights charity Reprieve said.
According to Amnesty International, his trial was a farce because he was denied access to a proper defense lawyer and convicted on the forced confession.
Aside from torture, the charity also claims that his captors threatened to kill his family if did not confess to the crimes.
This week, he had his head cut from his body in front of a baying, bloodthirsty crowd along with 36 other men in the medieval country.
BUTCHERED FOR SENDING TEXT MESSAGES
Sentencing a person to death who is aged under 18 is banned under international law.
Another victim, Mujtaba al-Sweikat, was a teenager who was set to start a new life in the US, studying at Western Michigan University, when he was arrested for attending an anti-government protest.
The then-17-year-old – who had enrolled in English language and finance – was badly beaten including on the soles of his feet before he “confessed” to crimes against the state.
Human rights charities claim he was also tortured into confessing and convicted in a “sham trial.”
Despite his university protesting his sentence, insisting he had “great promise,” Mujtaba was also beheaded this week.
Reprieve Deputy Director Harriet McCulloch insists both men were sharing information about “peaceful” demonstrations.
She said: “Many things can be used to justify a death sentence in Mohammed Bin Salman’s Saudi Arabia, including ‘disobedience against the King’, ‘preparing banners with anti-state slogans’ and ‘incitement via social media’.
“Mujtaba al-Sweikat and Abdulkarim al-Hawaj were teenagers sharing information about peaceful protests on their mobile phones.
“Saudi Arabia’s western allies must act now, to prevent any more young people being killed for exercising their right to freedom of expression.”
Another man, Munir al-Adam, was just 23, when he was arrested at a government checkpoint in 2012.
His feet were so badly beaten he was forced to crawl on his hands and knees for days, it has been reported.
Munir lost the hearing in one of his ears, following a childhood accident, but was left completely deaf after the horrific torture, it has been alleged.
He told a judge that he agreed to sign the confession because he was exhausted by the brutal and relentless torture.
The killings were carried out in Riyadh, the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina, central Qassim province and Eastern Province, home to the country’s Shiite minority.
Lynn Maalouf, Middle East Research Director at Amnesty International, said the mass execution was a chilling demonstration of the Saudi Arabian authorities callous disregard for human life.
She said: “It is also yet another gruesome indication of how the death penalty is being used as a political tool to crush dissent from within the country’s Shiite minority.”
For Abdulkareem al-Hawaj’s family, perhaps it was consolation their son’s decapitated head and body was not impaled and put on display as a warning to others.
Others were not so fortunate.
‘CALLOUS DISREGARD FOR HUMAN LIFE’
The 37 citizens killed during beheading bloodbath had all been convicted of terrorism offences in the hardline kingdom. It emerged one man had even been crucified.
Saudi lawmakers insist the men were charged with “adopting terrorist extremist ideology, forming terrorist cells” and harming the “peace and security of society”.
Those executed had been involved in attacking a base killing a number of security officers, the Saudi Press Agency statement said.
The slaughter of mainly minority Shiites is likely to stoke further regional and sectarian tensions between rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Saudi dissident Ali Al-Ahmed, who runs the Gulf Institute in Washington, identified 34 of those executed as Shiites based on the names announced by the Interior Ministry.
“This is the largest mass execution of Shiites in the kingdom’s history,” he said.
In fact it marked the largest number of executions in a single day in Saudi Arabia since January 2, 2016, when the kingdom executed 47 people for terrorism-related crimes.