Saudi families sent a distress letter to the US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, asking him to intervene urgently and save their sons, who are facing an unfair death sentence and could be executed at any moment for ‘crimes’ they were accused of committing as minors.
The letter came in light of the increasing cooperation between the US administration and the Saudi regime, despite pledges by US President Joe Biden to put human rights at the top of his foreign policy agenda. However, Biden’s administration has been working to strengthen cooperation with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s regime.
In the letter to the US Secretary of State, a family member of the prisoner Abdullah al-Derazi describes how Abdullah was swept off the street and disappeared for three months in August 2014 for protest crimes he is alleged to have committed when he was 17 years old.
“Saudi Arabia’s government is deaf to our cries, but it will listen to you,” the letter said. “You can help bring our sweet and sensitive boy home and prevent him from being taken from us forever.”
In their appeal, the family urged Blinken to intervene on Abdullah’s behalf, saying the young man from the Qatif region of Saudi Arabia had been rounded up by authorities and imprisoned in order to “scare people to stop them from protesting”.
The other case concerns Youssef al-Manasif, who was accused of crimes including attending funerals between the ages of 15 and 17 that were deemed to be “protests” by Saudi authorities.
Youssef was tortured, coerced into signing a false confession, and denied legal representation.
Both cases are currently being reviewed by Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court. If their sentences are upheld, both would be at risk of execution, which could happen imminently and without notice.
Saudi Arabia issued a royal decree to abolish the death penalty for children in 2020, stating unequivocally that individuals would not be sentenced to death for crimes committed when they were minors. But the kingdom has since upheld the death penalty in a number of cases involving minor defendants.
The open letter was the families’ last hope to save their sons after all other legal means had been exhausted. But it is uncertain whether the US administration will respond to their appeal in light of the strengthening relations between the two countries.
Biden has earlier pledged to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” state over the Kingdom’s poor human rights record, especially following Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, but in fact, Biden has made human rights a “pariah” file.
He traveled to Saudi Arabia and met with Mohammed bin Salman, totally ignoring Saudi poor human rights record.