The Saudi government executed more than three dozen people in a mass execution on trumped-up charges of terrorism:

Saudi Arabia said Tuesday it had executed 37 people convicted of terrorism-related offenses, bringing the number of executions there in the first four months of the year to 105, according to the Saudi interior ministry and Reprieve, a human rights group that tracks the use of the death penalty in the kingdom.

It was the largest mass execution in Saudi Arabia since early 2016, when 47 people were put to death, also on terror-related charges. The vast majority of those executed on Tuesday were members of Saudi Arabia’s Shiite Muslim minority, according to Shiite activists.

Those put to death included at least three people who were minors at the time of their alleged crimes and confessed to prosecutors’ charges under torture, according to Reprieve, which said it provided assistance to five of the people executed.

The Saudi government has always been brutal and repressive, but in the last few years it has become even more so. This mass execution is believed to be the single largest execution of Shiites in Saudi Arabia’s history:

Amnesty International also confirmed the majority of those executed were Shiite men. The rights group said they were convicted “after sham trials” that relied on confessions extracted through torture.

The U.S. should offer no support to a government that tortures people into confessing to crimes they didn’t commit and then kills them for things they haven’t done. The Saudi government appears to be growing even more abusive and cruel, and that is unlikely to change anytime soon. The torture and execution of these prisoners underscores the need for our government to intercede for the release of all U.S. citizens wrongfully detained by the Saudi government before they are subjected to the same treatment.

The Saudi government treats political dissent as terrorism, and then executes the dissenters after they are tortured into making false confessions. These abusive practices have tended to target Saudi Shiites most of all because they are severely discriminated against, but they are used against all Saudi dissidents. Human Rights Watch also condemned the executions:

The killings were quickly condemned by Human Rights Watch, which said that most of the convicted were members of the country’s persecuted Shia minority.

“Today’s mass execution of mostly Shia citizens is a day we have feared for several years. The punishments are especially grotesque when they result from a flawed justice system that ignores torture allegations,” said Adam Coogle, Middle East researcher at HRW.

Saudi laws define terrorism so broadly that it includes personal beliefs and peaceful political protest:

In its current form, he said, the state’s “overly broad” definition of “terrorism” included calling for atheist thought “in any form”, contact with any group “hostile” to the Kingdom, anyone “seeking to shake the social fabric or national cohesion, or “participating, promoting, or inciting sit-ins, protests, meetings, or group statements in any form”.

The report also stated that Mr Emmerson received “well-documented reports of the use of torture and ill-treatment by law enforcement officials against individuals accused of having committed acts of terrorism”.

Those methods of torture included electric shocks, sleep deprivation, incommunicado and prolonged solitary detention, and beatings to the head, face, jaw and feet.

The activists detained last year in one of the crown prince’s many crackdowns have already been subjected to torture, and there is a very real danger that they could face the same fate as the condemned men that were put to death in this mass execution.

One of those killed was a young student who planned to come to the U.S. for college. Like many of the others, he was subjected to torture to elicit a false confession:

A Saudi Arabian man who was arrested as a teenager as he was getting ready to fly to America to begin his studies at Western Michigan University was beheaded by the government Tuesday, according to a report from an official press agency.

Mujtaba al-Sweikat was 17 when he was detained at King Fahd International Airport in 2012. Earlier that year, Al-Sweikat allegedly attended a pro-democracy rally in the midst of the Arab Spring, which led to his arrest. He was intending to visit Western Michigan, where he had been accepted as a student, the university confirmed to the Free Press in 2017.

One of the others condemned to death was a Shiite religious leader who was known for advocating dialogue and cooperation between Sunnis and Shiites, but who was absurdly accused of fomenting sectarianism:

Al-Ahmed said among those executed was Shiite religious leader Sheikh Mohammed al-Attiyah, whose charges included seeking to form a sectarian group in the western city of Jiddah. Al-Ahmed said the sheikh publicly spoke of the need to work closely with Saudi Arabia’s Sunni majority and would lead small prayer groups among Shiites.

In a speech he gave in 2011 under then King Abdullah, the sheikh was quoted as saying that frank and open dialogue between Sunnis and Shiites could help strengthen Saudi unity. He urged patience and expressed hope in a national dialogue that had taken place among Shiite dissidents and Sunni leaders.

“As long as we live in the same country, we have no choice but to accept one another and live with one another, no matter the degree of difference between us,” he said.

That is the sort of man that the Saudi state chooses to put to death. The Saudi government has been brutally persecuting its Shiite minority for many years, and that persecution has only intensified. These executions are just the most visible evidence of that persecution, and they are a reminder of just what a hideous, authoritarian state Saudi Arabia is.

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