The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

At 10 years old he protested the Saudi government. Now, at 18, he could face the death penalty.

Children ride their bicycles in Awamiya, a Shiite-majority town on Saudi Arabia's oil-rich eastern coast, on April 28. (Fayez Nureldine/AFP/Getty Images)

ISTANBUL — Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor is seeking the death penalty against a teenager accused of crimes he allegedly committed as a minor, drawing fire from rights groups who say his execution would violate international law.

Murtaja Qureiris, 18, faces a raft of charges stemming from his participation in anti-government demonstrations, including some that date to when he was 10 years old. 

Prosecutors also accuse Qureiris, a member of the kingdom’s Shiite Muslim minority, of joining a “terrorist organization” and throwing molotov cocktails at a police station. Authorities detained Qureiris in 2014 and have held him for more than four years, rights advocates say. 

Amnesty International, a ­London-based rights group, confirmed last week that Saudi ­prosecutors were seeking the death penalty for Qureiris, whose first trial session was held in August.  

The confirmation followed a report by CNN that included videos of Qureiris at demonstrations in eastern Saudi Arabia’s restive Qatif region. 

Saudi Arabia puts to death 37 people in largest mass execution in past three years

“There should be no doubt that the Saudi Arabian authorities are ready to go to any length to crack down on dissent against their own citizens, including by resorting to the death penalty for men who were merely boys at the time of their arrest,” Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East research director, said in a statement. 

“It is appalling that Murtaja Qureiris is facing execution for offenses that include taking part in protests while he was just 10 years old,” Maalouf said. “The Saudi Arabian authorities have a chilling track record of using the death penalty as a weapon to crush political dissent and punish anti-government protesters — including children — from the country’s persecuted Shia minority.”

Saudi Arabia executed 37 people in a single day in April, at least three of whom were minors, according to rights groups. It is one of a handful of countries that routinely apply the death penalty, often by beheading. 

CIA concludes Saudi crown prince ordered Jamal Khashoggi’s assassination

Jamal Khashoggi’s final months as an exile in the long shadow of Saudi Arabia

Today’s coverage from Post correspondents around the world

Like Washington Post World on Facebook and stay updated on foreign news