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Saudi youth spared the sword is given new death sentence

A teenage boy has been resentenced to beheading in Saudi Arabia despite an earlier conviction for murder being quashed and the authorities promising to abolish death sentences for minors.

Abdullah al-Howaiti was 14 when he was arrested in 2017 for robbing a jewellery store in Tabuk in the northwest of the country and shooting dead a policeman who tried to intervene.

Two years later he was sentenced to death and an international campaign began to secure an appeal. It was supported by British MPs and human rights groups, who asked the government to intervene.

His age was a significant element of his defence in the case, which campaigners said was flawed. The man who robbed the store, who was disguised in women’s clothing and a niqab was described as tall and appeared too old to be a 14-year-old boy.

Abdullah himself said he was on the seafront in the coastal town of Duba at the time with friends, which appeared to be confirmed by his mobile phone location records. He was rounded up later at home in Tabuk with his brother, and subsequently said he was tortured into confessing to the crime.

Reprieve, the British-based organisation that campaigns against the death penalty, said the case once again showed the limits of the Saudi authorities’ promises. “Abdullah al-Howaiti has now been sentenced to death not once, but twice, by a court that knows he was 14 when he was arrested and tortured,” a spokeswoman said. Read the full story in The Times.