Contact: Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK Co-founder, Medea@codepink.org
Alli McCracken, CODEPINK Co-director, Alli@codepink.org
Washington, DC –– In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison urged the State Department to intervene on behalf of three Saudi youth who have been sentenced to death for participating in peaceful pro-democracy protests in Saudi Arabia.
The letter is available online on the CODEPINK website: http://www.codepink.org/congressman_ellison_to_sec_kerry_stop_saudi_executions
Ali al-Nimr, Dawood al-Marhoon and Abdullah al-Zaher are the three Saudi youth who were arrested for attending peaceful political protests while they were aged 17, 17 and 15. They were tortured and forced to sign confessions, a common practice in the Saudi criminal justice system. All three were sentenced to death. Al-Nimr was sentenced to not just beheading, but also to public crucifixion.
From August 2014 to August 2015, Amnesty International documented 175 Saudi executions, an average of one every two days. This year, the kingdom is on track to break this record. As of April 4, the Saudi regime has executed 82 people in 2016, according to human rights organization Reprieve.
The request to Secretary Kerry comes at a time when US-based human rights activists have stepped up calls for a re-evaluation of the cozy relationship between the US government and the Saudi monarchy. They cite the unprecedented number of executions in 2015, including the killing of Sheikh Nimr al Nimr that further inflamed Middle East tensions; the sentencing of nonviolent bloggers, poets and lawyers to long prison terms and flogging; and Saudi Arabia’s relentless bombing in Yemen that has killed thousands of innocent civilians. Critics also fault the Saudis for the spread of extremist ideology and compare the theocratic Saudi monarchy’s religious extremism to that of groups like ISIS.