A Saudi court has given death sentences to over a dozen young Shia activists from the restive Qatif region, which has been the scene of peaceful protest rallies against the ruling Al Saudi regime in recent years.
Lebanon’s al-Manar television channel reported that 14 activists were sentenced to death on Thursday by the Supreme Court in Riyadh for taking part in the anti-regime protests gripping the kingdom’s Eastern Province, where the Qatif region is located.
According to the report, the trial process preceding the verdicts took place at the criminal court dealing with terrorism-related cases, a tribunal viewed by legal experts as an Interior Ministry tool to suppress opposition activists.
This is while some of the defendants had said during the hearing sessions that they were forced into false confessions through physical and psychological torture.
The rulers in Riyadh have been under fire by international rights group for using the so-called “anti-terrorism law” to silence critical voices in the kingdom. Riyadh adopted a revised version of the law in 2014, enabling tougher penalties for those found guilty of terrorism.
In May, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson, urged Saudi Arabia to stop using the law against people peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.