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Austrian government announced to Shut Saudi-Funded Center Over HR Violations

The Austrian government has announced plans to shut a Saudi-funded center in Vienna over the possible execution of a teenager arrested in Saudi Arabia for participation in an anti-regime protest.

The decision comes after the members of the far-right Freedom Party, the liberal Neos and Social Democrats passed a motion in Austria’s parliament to stop the activities of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID).

“This is a signal for human rights in Saudi Arabia, which hopefully will be copied by many, not just in Europe,” lawmaker Peter Pilz, a critic of Saudi Arabia, wrote on Twitter.

The motion also called on the government and the Foreign Ministry to “use all political and diplomatic means available” in a bid to prevent the execution of Murtaja Qureiris, who was arrested in 2014.

“A fundamental human right, namely taking part in a demonstration, is enough for the Saudi Arabian government to execute a juvenile,” Pilz said in a separate statement.

Qureiris was 10 years old when he was filmed taking part in a bike protest in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province. In the film, he is seen lifting a megaphone and pressing it against his lips. “The people demand human rights!” he shouts.

He was shortly afterwards charged with accompanying his activist brother, Ali Qureris, on a motorcycle ride to a police station in the eastern Saudi city of Awamiya. Ali allegedly threw Molotov cocktails at the police station there.

Murtaja was 11 when his brother died while taking part in protests, which Saudi officials described as violent.

He was 13 years old, when Saudi authorities arrested him as he was traveling with his family to Bahrain. At the time, Qureris was considered by lawyers and activists to be the youngest known political prisoner in Saudi Arabia.

According to reports, the public prosecutor is now seeking the death penalty against him over several charges ranging from joining the terrorist organizations to throwing Molotov cocktails at a police station and marching at his brother’s funeral.

Saudi Arabia executed 37 people just in a single day in April, at least three of whom were minors, according to rights groups. It is one the countries that routinely applies the death penalty, often by beheading.

KAICIID is a shared project launched in 2012 based on a treaty signed by Austria, Spain and Saudi Arabia.

The Vatican is a founding observer of KAICIID and has representation on its board, which by treaty must include three Christians, three Muslims, a Jew, a Hindu and a Buddhist.

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