Saudi Arabia has beheaded a 26-year-old man following the discovery of an “offensive” photograph that showed him in attendance during anti-government protest when he was 17, according to reports.
Mustafa al-Darwish was executed on Tuesday after he spent six years on death row following his conviction.
In February 2021, Riyadh authorities told the UN Human Rights Council that “anyone who commits a death-eligible crime as a child” will be subject to “a maximum sentence of ten years in a juvenile institution”. But Mustafa was beheaded despite such promises, raising concerns that other youngsters could also be put to death.
As a 17-year-old, Mustafa was caught up in Arab Spring protests among the country’s Shi’ite minority which swept through the Eastern Province region in 2011 and 2012.
At the time, small numbers of demonstrators called for reform which prompted the government to pay additional benefits worth around £112 billion to citizens.
Yet, in 2015, he was arrested with two others and accused of a range of offences which included “seeking to disrupt national cohesion through participation in more than 10 riots”.
Mustafa was subsequently placed in solitary confinement and his family said he fainted several times during what they described as “brutal interrogation sessions.”
He only later confessed to the crimes in court in order to “make the beatings stop,” his family said.
Mustafa’s family, who only read about his execution online, described how he was arrested in the streets of Tarout with two of his friends six years ago.
“Six years ago, Mustafa was arrested with two of his friends in the streets of Tarout”, his family said. The police released him without charge but confiscated his phone. We later found that there was a photograph on the phone that offended them.”
“Later they called us and told Mustafa to come and collect his phone, but instead of giving it back they detained him, and our suffering began,” his family said.
“How can they execute a boy because of a photograph on his phone?
“Since his arrest we have known nothing but pain. It is a living death for the whole family”.
Saudi Arabia is currently one of 53 countries to still have the death sentence, employing a variety of methods including hanging, shooting, lethal injection, electrocution and beheading.
According to The Saudi Human Rights Commission (SHRC), the state documented 27 executions last year which it said represented an 85% drop compared to 2019.
However the campaign groups have warned that the number might increase again this year, given that the decline could be partly attributed to the Covid-19 lockdown.