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Our Despicable Saudi ‘Ally’

In Saudi Arabia, peaceful protest is disgracefully equated with terrorism and punished with death.
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Mehdi Hasan reports on the latest outrage by the Saudi government:

Last week, we learned that Saudi prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for 18-year-old Murtaja, who is being tried in an anti-terror court. CNN reports that the prosecutors want to “impose the harshest form of the death penalty, which may include crucifixion or dismemberment after execution.”

Got that? The unelected government of a close ally of the United States is planning on brutally executing an 18-year-old member of a minority group, for crimes allegedly committed when he was 10 years old.

Let me repeat: Ten. Years. Old.

We shouldn’t forget the person who is primarily responsible for this outrage: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, or MBS.

Murtaja Qureiris is another victim of the Saudi government’s abuse of political protesters. He was wrongfully detained, and then tortured while in prison. In the end, many of these prisoners are executed for crimes they allegedly committed years before as children, and their convictions are usually secured with the false confessions obtained through torture. There were several other cases earlier this year of young Saudi men put to death for supposed “crimes” they committed as minors. They were among the three dozen political prisoners slaughtered in one day by the government’s executioners in April. The only “crime” that these men seem to have committed was that they participated in public political protests against the government to one degree or another. In Saudi Arabia, peaceful protest is disgracefully equated with terrorism and punished with death. Hasan continues:

“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,” says Lynn Maalouf, Middle East research director at Amnesty International.

The Gulf kingdom is one of the world’s top executioners and, according to Maalouf, Saudi 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 Shi’a minority.”

All of this takes place with the approval and support of the crown prince that the Trump administration embraces and defends no matter what. Hasan explains that Saudi abuses go well beyond persecuting religious minorities:

It isn’t just Shiites, either. MBS has also targeted Sunni clerics who have failed to fall into line. There have been reports that the belligerent and thin-skinned crown prince plans on executing three high-profile Saudi religious scholars — Salman al-Odah, Awad al-Qarni, and Ali al-Omari — all of whom have been held on multiple charges of “terrorism.” 62-year-old Odah is famous in the Arab world for his relatively progressive views on Islam and homosexuality and his 2007 denunciation of Osama bin Laden. His actual “crime”? Tweeting a prayer for reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and its Gulf rival, the Emirate of Qatar.

At the very least, the U.S. should have as little to do with this government as possible. It would be even better if the U.S. called out heinous Saudi abuses the same as it criticizes the abuses of any authoritarian regime. Instead of providing cover for an increasingly repressive despotic government, our government should be doing all it can to distance itself from Saudi Arabia while calling attention to the Saudi regime’s outrageous abuses and murders of prisoners. Failing that, the U.S. should use what influence it still has with Riyadh to intercede on behalf of these political prisoners who are obviously being railroaded because of their criticism of the government.