TEHRAN (Press Shia) – Some victims of a Saudi mass execution made impassioned pleas to the courts that their confessions were false and obtained under torture in a bid to save their lives but were still beheaded, a media report said on Friday.
Many said they were totally innocent, that their confessions had been written by the same people who had tortured them. Some claimed to have evidence of their abuse at the hands of their interrogators.
None of these arguments swayed the judges overseeing their trials in 2016, and the suspects were convicted of terror-related crimes and sentenced to death. On Tuesday, Riyadh announced that 37 men had been executed, including Ali al-Nimr, Dawood al-Marhoon and Abdullah al-Zaher, the three who were under 18 at the time of their alleged crimes, CNN reported.
One of the men was crucified after his execution, strung up and put on display as a warning to others.
CNN claimed that it had obtained hundreds of pages of documents from three 2016 trials involving 25 of the men whose executions were announced this week. Eleven were found guilty of alleged spying on behalf of Iran.
Another 14 were convicted of forming a “terror cell” during anti-government protests in the largely Shiite city of Awamiya in 2011 and 2012. Most of them were from the country’s Shiite minority.
For the authorities, the trial of those involved in the Awamiya protests was an open and shut case — the men had confessed, and “justice was served,” in the words of one Saudi official to CNN on Tuesday. When the United Nations raised concerns in 2017 that torture had been used to obtain the confessions in that case, the Saudi government responded with a letter denying the claims and stating that the men had stood by their admissions of guilt in court.
But the documents obtained by CNN show that far from owning up to their confessions, some of the men in the Awamiya case repeatedly told the court that the admissions were false and had been obtained through torture. In some cases, the suspects said they had provided nothing more than their thumbprints to sign off on confessions which they claimed had been written by their torturers.
Most of the prisoners who were executed were members of the kingdom’s minority Shiite community, which has long protested against the political and economic marginalization of the religious group.
Several of the cases involving those who were executed center on Awamiya, the Shiite city in the country’s Eastern Province.
Awamiya was the hometown of prominent Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, who was a leading figure in the province before he was executed by the Saudi government in 2016.
In one of the cases, 24 men were put on trial for alleged crimes related to the protests. Fourteen of them were charged with joining a terror cell, according to a UN report on the case. Those 14 men were on the list of the 37 executions announced Tuesday.
According to Amnesty International and some Saudi activists, families were not informed in advance of the executions, and were shocked when they received the news that their long-detained loved ones had been killed.
None of the families appear to have commented publicly since the executions were announced. Saudi authorities have cited contact with foreign journalists as evidence in other criminal cases.
Saudi Arabia has one of the highest death penalty rates in the world. It previously carried out a mass execution of 47 people in January 2016, including Nimr al-Nimr, the Shiite cleric.
The executed prisoners were accused of terrorism and having extremist ideology.
News of the mass executions came on the eve of a major business conference in Riyadh, but it didn’t stop some of the biggest names in banking and finance from attending. BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, HSBC CEO John Flint and JPMorgan’s Chief Operating Officer Daniel Pinto all appeared on stage Wednesday at the event organized by the Saudi government.
None of the finance executives were asked about human rights on the conference stage. JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley declined to comment. HSBC and BlackRock did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Executions in the Saudi kingdom are usually carried out by beheading.
At least 100 people have been executed in Saudi Arabia since the beginning of the year, according to a count based on official data released by SPA.