Saudi teenager arrested at 13 spared from execution, source says
(CNN) — Murtaja Qureiris, the 18-year-old who had been facing the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, has been spared execution and sentenced to 12 years in prison, according to a source familiar with the matter.
The source told CNN that Qureiris, who was arrested at the age of 13 by Saudi authorities, could be released by 2022.
Qureiris’s sentence includes time served since his arrest in 2014, with the four final years on probation, leaving him with three years left in prison.
A Saudi official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that timeline to Reuters.
CNN has reached out to the Saudi government for comment.
International pressure had been mounting on the kingdom after CNN reported on Qureiris’s case.
In Austria, the country’s parliament, voted to close a Saudi-backed center for interfaith dialogue, in protest against the detention of Qureiris.
Qureiris was 10 years old when he committed at least one of the acts alleged in his charge sheet.
He was charged with accompanying his activist brother, Ali Qureris, on a motorcycle ride to a police station in the eastern Saudi city of Awamiya, where Ali allegedly threw Molotov cocktails at the facility.
His other alleged crime includes attending his brother’s funeral which later became a rally.
Qureiris has denied the charges and said that the confessions, which the prosecution has largely relied on, were obtained under duress.
At the time of arrest, Qureiris was considered by lawyers and activists to be the youngest known political prisoner in Saudi Arabia.
Murtaja Qureiris is from a Shia family in the eastern province of the majority Sunni Saudi Arabia.
In April, Saudi Arabia announced it had executed 37 men who, according to rights group Reprieve, were mostly from the kingdom’s Shia minority.
At least three of the men executed were minors at the time of the commission of alleged crimes, court documents reviewed by CNN and Reprieve showed.
All three were arrested for violence the government says was committed during protests around the time of the Arab Spring. But the prosecution relied heavily on confessions which the prisoners said were extracted from them. In the court proceedings, they said that they were tortured, the confessions made under duress.
The country has one of the highest rates of execution in the world, and has frequently been criticized by rights groups for executing people who were minors at the time of the commission of crimes.
Amnesty International responded to the news about Qureiris’s case on Twitter Sunday: “Much relief to learn that Saudi authorities confirm that #MurtajaQureiris will NOT be sentenced to death. #EndDeathPenalty #SaudiArabia.