Dubai, United Arab Emirates - A young Saudi man, arrested when he was 13, could face execution for taking part in Shi'a-led protests as a child, Amnesty International said.
Murtaja Qureiris, now 18, is on trial for charges that include joining a "terror group" and "sowing sedition", according to the rights group and CNN, which first reported details of his case in recent days. He was detained in September 2014 and held in solitary confinement for part of that time.
As is typical with cases involving national security, Saudi Arabia has not commented nor made public details of the case.
Concern, however, has grown after the kingdom as recently as April carried out a
Qureiris is being charged with offenses that involve taking part in protests when he was as young as 10. Another charge relates to his participation at the age of 11 at an anti-government rally that erupted at his older brother's funeral who was killed while protesting in 2011 during the height of Arab Spring revolts that were roiling other parts of the Middle East.
Minority Shiite protesters in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province launched protests that year to demand equal rights and a greater share of the kingdom's oil wealth, which is concentrated in the east. They complained of poor government services, as well as discrimination from the country's government-backed ultraconservative Wahhabi clerics and their Sunni followers.
In recent years, as tensions with Shiite-led Iran intensified, the government under King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman also intensified a crackdown on government critics, particularly Saudi Shiites.
Since 2014, more than 100 Saudi Shiites have been tried before Saudi Arabia's anti-terrorism court on vague and wide-ranging charges arising from their opposition to the government, according to Amnesty International. In 2016, the kingdom's highest profile Shiite cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, was executed, sparking protests from Pakistan to Iran and the ransacking of the Saudi Embassy in Tehran. Saudi-Iran ties have not recovered and the embassy remains shuttered.