ABUALLAH al-Zaher, 19, is facing an imminent death sentence in Saudi Arabia.

Speaking out for the first time yesterday, his family called on the world to help before their son is beheaded, allegedly along with 51 other people in a mass execution across the country.

“Please help me save my son from the imminent threat of death,” his father, Hassan al-Zaher, said in an interview with The Guardian.

“He doesn’t deserve to die just because he participated in a protest rally,”

Zaher was just 15 years old when he was arrested on March 3, 2013, for taking part in protests in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province.

Saudi Citizens who took to the streets during the Arab Spring protests in 2011 and 2012 faced a brutal crackdown.

Some were allegedly killed and many arrested and tried before the Specialised Criminal Court (SCC) – a non-Shariah court set up for cases of “terrorism”.

Zaher was sentenced to death by that court in October 2014, on charges including harbouring protestors, participating in demonstrations, chanting slogans, setting fire to a car and throwing Molotov cocktails.

His family says Zaher was made to confess under torture – beaten with iron rods and forced to sign a paper under duress.

The prosecutor asked for a sentence of crucifixion – beheading and then the public display of the body.

His family last saw him three months ago – he had lost weight and had visible signs of torture.

An appeal against his death sentence failed in September and Zahar was moved without notice to solitary confinement in a prison 1,000km from his home.

He could be executed at any time.

Reprieve, a UK-based human rights organisation, say that at the time of his arrest Zahar was the youngest person in Saudi Arabia to be given a death sentence.


ZAHER isn’t the only minor, at the time of arrest, who has been sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia, despite the country having signed up to international conventions outlawing the execution of minors.

In a case that made headlines around the world, Ali al-Nimr was just 17 years old when he was sentenced to death by crucifixion.

He was arrested on February 14, 2012, during the Arab Spring protests in Saudi.

His charges included participating in an illegal demonstration, explaining how to give first aid to protestors and using his Blackberry to invite others to the protest.

His family say he was tortured in prison, denied access to a lawyer and forced to sign a confession.

His final appeal was held in secret, without his knowledge. He can now be executed at any time.

His mother, Nusra al-Ahmed, speaking after the appeal failed, said: “For other people, every hour is composed of 60 minutes, but for me every hour is 60 beats of pain.”

The last time she spoke to her son he told her to be strong. She said his last words to her were: “I am not the only person to have ever suffered injustice. Nor will I be the last who is killed unjustly.”

Dawood al-Marhoon was also 17 years old when he was arrested for participating in anti-government protests in 2011.

After refusing to spy on fellow protestors he was tortured and forced to sign a blank document – which would later contain a confession.

On October 21, 2014, Marhoon was sentenced to death by beheading by the SCC.

His lawyers – who had been denied access to Marhoon throughout most of his detention – attempted to lodge an appeal but no new trial date was set.

On September 29 this year the SCC confirmed his death sentence and he was moved to solitary confinement in a Riyadh prison to await execution.


SAUDI Arabia’s human rights record is widely acknowledged as abysmal.

In its World Report on Saudi, Human Rights Watch detailed a series of continual failings throughout 2014, including the conviction and imprisonment of political dissidents and human rights activists, systematic discrimination against women and religious minorities, arbitrary detention, unfair trials, criminalisation of peaceful criticism under anti-terror laws and the failure to project the rights of nine million foreign workers.

As well as Nimr there have been numerous high-profile cases highlighting the brutality of the system.

These include Ashraf Fayadh, 35, a Palestinian poet sentenced to death for apostasy on November 17; Raif Badawi, 31, a liberal blogger whose sentence was increased in May 2014 to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for “insulting Islam”.

A Saudi man convicted of murder was executed on Tuesday – the 151st death sentence carried out in the kingdom this year. In the first six months of 2015, the death toll from executions in Saudi had reached more than 100, surpassing 2014’s total of 84.

While the rate of beheading has slowed of late, at 151 this year is the highest for two decades, according to Amnesty International. In 1995 there were 192 people put to death.


DESPITE the well-documented human rights abuses, the Saudi ambassador to the UN was made chair of the UN Human Rights Council in September, to widespread criticism.

It has since emerged that there was a deal between the UK and Saudi to vote each other on to the panel back in 2013.

Charged to explain why such a deal would have occurred, given the kingdom’s human rights abuses, Prime Minister David Cameron said: “We receive [from Saudi Arabia] important intelligence and security information that keeps us safe.”

British officials, including the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister, have spoken out against the planned beheading of Nimr and an increased focus on the kingdom’s human rights – including a sentence, since removed, to lash Karl Andree, a 74-year-old British grandfather who broke the country’s strict no-alcohol law – was seen by some as the reason behind the cancellation of a £6 million contract to provide training to Saudi prisons.

However, the UK is under growing pressure to end its arms trade with the Saudis after the outcry over the use of British-bought weapons in the kingdom’s campaign in Yemen.

Nearly 6,000 people have died in the conflict and, according to a team of leading human rights lawyers, the British Government could be breaking national, EU and international laws by continuing to supply weapons to Saudi.

Air strikes are meant to be targeting Houthi rebel positions but have caused masses of civilian casualties by hitting schools, wedding parties, mosques and hospitals.