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Death sentence feared “final” for Saudi Arabian student headed to Michigan

Jul 24, 2017

A picture of Mujtaba’a al-Sweikat from 2011, when he was 16 years old.
Credit Courtesy Reprieve

We’ve got an update now on the story of a young Saudi Arabian man who was accepted to Western Michigan University back in 2013, but was arrested by the Saudi government for allegedly taking part in a pro-Democracy protest and sentence to death.

Mujtaba’a al-Sweikat was 17 when he was detained at the airport on his way to visit WMU in 2012, according to the London-based human rights group, Reprieve.

After an international outcry earlier this month when the death sentence was confirmed for him and 13 other young activists, it looked like maybe the Saudi court was pausing for a brief “appeal,” says Maya Foa, the director of Reprieve.

But even if there was an appeal, it would have essentially been a “sham,” she says.

“What we know is that these individuals now facing beheading at the hands of Saudi authorities, were not taken to court, have not seen any lawyers, and their families were not allowed to attend,” Foa says. “There was no chance to have evidence presented against them, and no notice to anyone who was an interested party.”

The family has now gotten word that the higher court has confirmed the death sentences, she says.

“We’re now calling on President Trump, on [UK] Prime Minister Theresa May to speak to their counterparts in Saudia Arabia, and say: 'We stand with democracy and freedom of speech, and that young children headed to the USA should not be beheaded for exercising their rights.'”

Unless a pardon is granted, Foa says the beheadings may be imminent.