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Saudi Arabia: boy arrested aged 13 at risk of execution

Murtaja Qureiris was held in solitary confinement and subjected to beatings during his interrogation.  Murtaja Qureiris faces possible execution for offences which date back to when he was just ten years old.  CNN footage shows him taking part in bike protest with other young boys in Shi’a Eastern Province in 2011.

Amnesty International is calling for the Saudi Arabian authorities to rule out the use of the death penalty against a teenager arrested at the age of 13 for participating in anti-government protests.  CNN this week revealed he was facing the death penalty and published video footage showing Murtaja Qureiris participating in bike protests in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province as a young boy in 2011.

Amnesty has confirmed that Saudi Arabia’s Public Prosecution sought the death penalty for Murtaja Qureiris last August for a series of offences, some of which date back to when the teenager was just ten years old.  Qureiris, now aged 18, was arrested in September 2014 and detained in a juvenile detention centre in al-Dammam city.  He was held in solitary confinement for a month, and subjected to beatings and intimidation during his interrogation.  His interrogators promised to release him if he confessed to charges against him.  In May 2017, he was moved to al-Mabaheth prison in al-Dammam, an adult facility, even though he was still only 16.

Throughout his detention, Qureiris was denied access to a lawyer until after his first court session in August 2018. This was held at the country’s notorious Specialised Criminal Court, an anti-terrorism court set up in 2008 and increasingly used for cases involving human rights activists and protesters.

The charges against Murtaja Qureiris include participating in anti-government protests; attending the funeral of his brother Ali Qureiris who was killed in a protest in 2011; joining a “terrorist organisation;” throwing Molotov cocktails at a police station, and firing at security forces.  He is currently awaiting his next trial session.  Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director, said:

It is appalling that Murtaja Qureiris is facing execution for offences that include taking part in protests while he was just ten years old.
The Saudi Arabian 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.
Instead of stepping up their use of the death penalty to silence critics.
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.”

Persecution of Shi’as in the Eastern Province

Since 2011, the authorities have cracked down on successive waves of protests by the Shi’a minority in the country’s Eastern Province.  In April this year, Amnesty confirmed the execution of Abdulkareem al-Hawaj, a young Shi’a man arrested aged 16 and convicted of offences related to his involvement in anti-government protests.  He was among 37 men put to death in one day as part of a gruesome execution spree.  Three other Shi’a men – Ali al-Nimr, Abdullah al-Zaher and Dawood al-Marhoon, who were arrested in 2012 aged 17, 16 and 17 respectively in connection with their involvement in anti-government protests – are at risk of being executed at any time.

Since 2014, more than 100 Shi’a Saudis have been tried before the Specialised Criminal Court on vague and wide-ranging charges arising from their opposition to the government, including peaceful criticism of the authorities.  Amnesty has documented that a number of these have involved grossly unfair trials, with defendants convicted and – in many cases – sentenced to death on vague charges that criminalise peaceful opposition, and on the basis of “confessions” extracted through torture or other coercive means.

Appalling record
Saudi Arabia has an appalling record of using the death penalty – including against children – after grossly unfair trials that rely on confessions extracted through torture. The use of the death penalty for offences allegedly committed by people under 18 is strictly prohibited by international law. Amnesty opposes the death penalty in all circumstances without exception.


Source: Amnesty press release.

Amnesty is hosting a talk by Paul Mason on 24th June.  If you want to join us, this would be a good time to make yourself known.  UPDATE: We regret to say this event has been cancelled.

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We held our annual market stall in Salisbury yesterday and managed to sell over £200 of stuff.  We had plenty to sell, including lots of CDs, good quality clothes and a lot of nice jewellery.  We couldn’t help but notice however that spending was subdued despite the low prices.  Perhaps the effects of austerity really are being felt.

Many thanks to all those who gave us things to sell and also to those who spent the morning on the stall.  It was enjoyable.  The promised rain held off although it threatened at various times.

 

 

 


President Trump is due to leave the UK after a controversial visit in which all the normal diplomatic niceties seem to have been ignored.  Our concern naturally is with human rights and his tenure as president has shown a wilful disregard for the rights of women, minorities and immigrants.  Kate Allen, the Director of Amnesty, has written to the government arguing for a more vigorous line from them.  She said;

Trump has presided over two-and-a-half years of utterly shameful policies.  Locking up child migrants, imposing a discriminatory travel ban, decimating global funding for women’s rights and withdrawing from global human rights bodies – it’s been a roll call of shame under Donald Trump’s presidency.

We need to resist Trump’s trashing of human rights.  Within the Anglo-American relationship, we’d like to see the UK Government being far more vocal about human rights.  Our fear is that the Government’s desperate hunger for post-Brexit trade deals with the USA could mean we end up giving a free pass to the White House as this onslaught against human rights continues.

The full press release can be accessed from this link.


If you have come to this page seeking information about Paul Mason’s talk on 24th, details can be found here.


UPDATE: PLEASE NOTE THIS EVENT HAS BEEN CANCELLED.  We have been informed today that Paul will be indisposed on this day and regretfully and unavoidably, he has had to cancel

Leading author and journalist coming to Salisburyclear bright future

We are delighted to announce that the famous journalist and author Paul Mason (pictured) will be speaking in Salisbury on 24 June at 7:30.  This is a free event but we do ask people to contribute to a parting collection to help with our costs.

Paul will be speaking about his new book Clear Bright Future: A Radical Defence of the Human Being.  The book is about the triple threat we face: the rise of authoritarian politicians and the destruction of verifiable truth; the rise of intelligent machines which will threaten the human claim to agency, and a rising sense of fatalism and irrationality which has led many to become susceptible to the mythologies of the new right.

The book is an argument for a defence of the human being against the creation of the ‘neoliberal self’ in the past three decades or so.  To resist this Mason argues, means fighting for universal rights and for human centric institutions.

Paul Mason

Picture: C Juergen-Bauer

Paul will be speaking at the Salisbury Methodist Church starting at 7:30 pm and the event is free.  We are asking for a parting contribution please.


The evening will be a good opportunity for you to join us if you wish.  The issue of the power of the tech giants and the effect this has on our freedoms is an issue we are likely as a group to pay more attention to in the future.  This may be a topic of interest to you in which case we would like to hear from you.  It is free to join us locally.


A concert is being organised by Sarum Concern for Israel/Palestine on 27 June at Salisbury Methodist Church.  Tickets are £12 on the door or £10 in advance with students £5.  http://www.thelittleboxoffice.com/palmusic.  Also 01722 349740.

The performers are the Palmusic Ensemble and the aim is to raise money for Palmusic UK scholarships. Three out of four of these four talented young musicians are making a return visit to Salisbury at the end of June when they again will play a mix of Western classical and Palestinian music.

For those who were at Salisbury Methodist Church in February 2018, it was a very memorable evening.  Omar and Tibah are brother and sister
studying viola and cello respectively at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. They are Druze from The Galilee. In the past Omar was conscripted to serve time in the Israeli Army but as an Arab Palestinian refused, serving time in prison.  On this occasion they
are joined by Lourdina – another violinist – who has studied in Bethlehem (her home town), Paris and now at the Royal Birmingham Conservatory.

All three have been awarded scholarships through Palmusic, which is short for The Friends of the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, a UK charity, which  supports them financially, so this is a fund-raising evening for them. Iyad who works with them is a Jordanian-Palestinian and already a professional pianist who has recently made a recording of Khachaturian’s piano music.  The concert will include Mahler Piano Quartet in A minor, Mozart Piano Quartet in G minor K.478 and Arabic folk songs.

Further details from http://www.sarumconcern.org or http://www.palmusic.org.uk

Group meeting

Posted: April 11, 2019 in Uncategorized

Group meeting tonight, 7:30 at Victoria Road.  Supporters welcome.


The group will be holding a brief vigil outside the Guildhall on Monday 25th March starting at 10am for 2 hours.  Refugees are a contentious issue in this country and indeed, concerns about immigrants and refugees were a key issue in the Brexit debate.  Although the UK takes in a miniscule number compared to the 25 million or so refugees in the world, they loom large in our political process and in the tabloid press.  Biblical terms like ‘swarms’, ‘hordes’ and ‘floods’ are regularly deployed to describe those fleeing here.

Protest guildhall

Some group members at the Guildhall

We would welcome any support you can give even if it’s just to come and say ‘hello’.  We sometimes feel a little exposed at these events and there are some people who have forcefully held views so shows or support are welcome.

This would also be a good moment if you are thinking of joining the group to make yourself known.  The picture shows a similar event last year.


The next group meeting is on Thursday 14th March at 7:30 but in Attwood Road number 28.  It will be a busy agenda as we have a lot of things planned at present.  All supporters welcome but to note it is a working meeting so there won’t be a speaker.  Last month’s minutes are available here.


Government minister gives equivocal answer

The threat by the current Conservative government to do away with the Human Rights Act (HRA) has lain dormant for some time due to the considerable time being devoted to the Brexit negotiations.  However, it reared its head again this week when a House of Lords EU Justice subcommittee asked a government minister for reassurance that it (the government) will not repeal or replace the act.

The Parliament Website has the following piece:

The House of Lords EU Justice Sub-Committee wrote to Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice David Gauke in December regarding the rights of citizens post-Brexit.  The Committee sought an explanation for the dilution of the Government’s commitment to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Last week the Committee received a troubling response.  While again pledging an unchanging commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms, the letter from Edward Argar MP, Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of Justice, ended with reference to the Government’s intention to revisit the Human Rights Act once the process of leaving the EU is concluded18 January 2019 [accessed 22 January 2019 our italics]

This is very troubling.  The hostility of many ministers and politicians to the HRA is well known and echoes the frequent stories and campaigns in the tabloid press.  It is seen by some as a threat to our way or life and to giving terrorists and criminals a ‘get out of jail card’.

On the contrary, it is in our view, one of the most important pieces of legislation in the last 20 years.  It has shifted power away from the state and given ordinary people a means to challenge faulty decisions.  The Hillsborough enquiry is a recent example and would not have happened without it.  As an Amnesty spokesperson put it:

The Human Rights Act has been central to the vital pursuit of justice in this country for the last 20 years.  It is the unsung hero of UK life, holding powerful people and institutions to account when ordinary people are let down.  It is deeply concerning that the Government refuses to acknowledge that reality.

The Human Rights Act is a critical safety net for everyone in our society.  Any attempt to dilute or remove the essential protections the Human Rights Act provides should be categorically ruled out.

They are mounting a petition which you can take part in if you wish.

If the act is abolished, all that will happen is that we go back to the bad old days of people having to beat a path to Strasbourg to get justice.

Sources:  Amnesty, Rights Info, Parliament Website


If you live in the Salisbury or South Wilts area and would like to join us, you would be very welcome.  Keep and eye on this site or on Facebook @salisburyai for one of our events and come along and make yourself known.

 

December minutes

Posted: December 17, 2018 in Uncategorized

Minutes of the December meeting are attached thanks to group member Lesley for compiling them.  A full meeting with both past and future activities discussed.  At the end of the minutes you will find details of future events with dates. 

If you are living in the Salisbury/South Wiltshire/North Dorset area and wish to join us you would be welcome.  The simplest thing is to keep and eye on this site or Facebook or Twitter (salisburyai) and come along to an event and make yourself known