On 13 March, seven young men were executed in Saudi Arabia by firing squad.

The GFFWTU campaigns for democratic and trade union rights in Saudi Arabia. Yahya Al-Faifi spoke to the Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party (CWI England and Wales) about these executions.

The seven men were reportedly arrested in January 2006 and charged with organising a criminal group, armed robbery and breaking into jewellery stores. They were sentenced to death by a court in Aseer province in August 2009.

Yahya explained how, in a society where huge wealth is concentrated in the hands of those at the top, young people are frequently forced to turn to crime to try to feed themselves and their families.

"These young people were from the south, the most deprived provinces in the entire country. This is where the ’Saudi Spring’ is most likely to start from.

The blood of these youths has been used to scare the people away from challenging the authority of the regime.

"Do you really think that the Saudi government has conducted any investigation into the origins and motivating factors behind these crimes, or looked at taking measures to alleviate youth unemployment? No, this is a police state that is only occupied by its own security and nothing else."

Yahya also expressed concerns about corruption in the judicial processes.

"Under international safeguards adopted by the United Nations Economic and Social Council, capital punishment may be imposed only for ’the most serious crimes’, such as murder, and only after the most rigorous judicial process. Neither of those fundamental criteria has been fulfilled in these cases.

Also, the death sentences were imposed largely based on initial confessions which could have been extracted under torture, and the allegations of torture must be examined.

The defendants had reportedly only made brief appearances before the court, and were not allowed to speak or given adequate opportunities to conduct their defence.

They claimed they were not present at all during the appeal stages and had no defence counsel representing them."

Yahya added that the Home Ministry frequently quotes verses from the Quran out of context, in order to try to give a religious justification to its crimes against the Saudi population, which are in fact motivated politically by the need to maintain the rule of the royal family and imperialism, especially in the context of the Arab Spring uprisings.

GFFWTU is calling for:

  • An end to capital punishment in Saudi Arabia. Provide training and apprenticeships in the oil and engineering industries to young workers, and migrant workers, devoid of a future.
  • No to the domination of western imperialism and the arms industry. Nationalise the oil industry under democratic workers’ control, and use the billions spent on arms to instead improve the living standards of the poor.
  • Stop corruption and bribery. For the oil wealth of Saudi Arabia to be used to benefit the majority of the population, not the royal family and their small elite clique.
  • Down with the brutal Al-Saud dictatorship! For full democratic, social and trade union rights in the Arabian Peninsula.

Only days after the seven youths were executed, Prince Charles and Camilla visited the semi-feudal state to help cement trade and commercial links, including lucrative arms sales, between UK companies and the Saudi Kingdom.

According to Amnesty International:

Saudi Arabia has one of the highest rates of execution in the world.

At least 24 people have been executed in 2013 including Sri Lankan domestic worker Rizana Nafeek, who was accused of killing a baby in her care when she was just 17 but claimed to have confessed under duress.

At least 82 people were executed in 2011, as were a similar number in 2012 - more than triple the figure of at least 27 in 2010.

Saudi Arabia applies the death penalty for crimes, including drug offences, ’apostasy, sorcery and witchcraft’.

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