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Saudi teenager facing execution wins reprieve

A teenager who was facing the death penalty in Saudi Arabia for a murder he was accused of committing at the age of 14 has had his conviction overturned after a long campaign by his family.

Abdullah al-Howaiti always denied having anything to do with the killing of a jewellery shop owner during a robbery in his home town of Tabuk four years ago. Mobile phone records backed up his claim that he was not there but 120 miles away in the seaside town of Duba with friends at the time.

Reprieve, the UK-based organisation which campaigns against the death penalty worldwide, said that in accordance with Saudi law there would now be a retrial. It said it was calling on the Saudi prosecutors not to ask for Howaiti to be executed.

“This is an opportunity for Saudi Arabia to show it is serious about abolishing the death penalty for childhood crimes,” Reprieve’s director, Maya Foa, said. “That this case even reached the supreme court shows how urgently real reform is needed. Abdullah was 14 years old at the time of the alleged offence and should never have been facing a death sentence.

“Saudi authorities have claimed, many times, that they are eliminating capital punishment for juvenile offences. If those statements are to be trusted, the death penalty should be off the table in this case.”

Read the full story in The Times.