RIYADH (Reuters) - The Saudi public prosecutor has ordered a review of death penalties issued against three individuals who committed crimes as minors, including the nephew of a prominent Shi’ite cleric whose execution sparked demonstrations in Saudi Arabia and Iran, a statement said on Thursday.
Ali al-Nimr, the nephew of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, Dawoud al-Marhoon and Abdullah al-Zaher, were sentenced to death in 2016 for terrorism-related crimes committed before they had reached the age of 18.
A royal decree issued by King Salman in April said the kingdom would no longer impose the death sentence on people who committed crimes while minors, and the death penalty should no longer be applied to those convicted while they were minors.
“These referrals mark important progress in faithfully implementing an important reform in the legal system, and in advancing human rights in Saudi Arabia,” said Awwad Alawwad, president of the state-backed Saudi Human Rights Commission.
Saudi law stipulates that the maximum sentence for anyone convicted of a crime committed while a minor is 10 years, which should be served in a juvenile detention facility.
The royal decree said minors who have already served 10 or more years would be released upon a review of their case.
Both Nimr and Marhoon were 17 when they were detained in 2012. Zaher was 15 when he was arrested in 2011.
Saudi Arabia’s human rights record has come under intense international scrutiny after the murder of a prominent Saudi journalist in 2018. It is one of the world’s biggest executioners after Iran and China, Amnesty International said in its latest annual report.
It said the kingdom had executed 184 people in 2019, including at least one person charged with a crime committed as a minor.
Reporting by Marwa Rashad; Editing by Toby Chopra and Giles Elgood
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