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Saudi beheadings a ‘backward step,’ says Alan Duncan

THE execution of dozens of prisoners by British ally Saudi Arabia is a “deeply backward step,” a Tory minister told Parliament today.

Sir Alan Duncan MP said: “We’re very concerned by the executions of 37 men inside Saudi Arabia and the Foreign Office is working to establish the full facts. 

“One of the grave concerns about these executions is that it would appear to include minors or those who were minors at the time that the charges were made. 

“This of course is totally unacceptable and we do deplore it.”

Human rights group Reprieve, which monitors executions in the Gulf kingdom, said at least three of those executed were juveniles at the time of their alleged offences. 

Reprieve director Maya Foa said: “This is yet another egregious display of brutality by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

“At least three of the people executed today were arrested as teenagers and tortured into false confessions. 

“Many were convicted of non-lethal crimes, such as attending protests. 

“That the Saudi regime believes it has impunity to carry out such patently illegal executions, without notice, should shock its international partners into action. 

“The US and the UK, in particular, must ensure there are consequences, and that no-one else is unlawfully executed for exercising their right to freedom of expression.”

Reprieve said the youngest prisoners executed included Abdulkarim al-Hawaj​​​​, who was charged with participating in demonstrations, incitement via social media and preparing banners with anti-state slogans.

Reprieve said he was beaten with sticks, tortured with electric shocks and chained with his hands above his head for several hours at a time until he “confessed” to other more serious terrorism offences.

Another youngster, Mujtaba al-Sweikat, was arrested at King Fahd International Airport, on his way to begin his studies at Western Michigan University in the US. 

He was severely beaten all over his body and convicted on the basis of a confession extracted through torture.

Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) also condemned the beheadings.

“One thing that the Crown Prince has been able to rely on is the uncritical political and military support of Theresa May, Jeremy Hunt and their colleagues,” CAAT media co-ordinator Andrew Smith said.

“It is long past time for them to stop the arms sales and end their endorsement of this terrible regime.”

The Saudi embassy was approached for comment.

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