A death sentence for a Saudi Arabian student who was arrested at the airport on his way to visit Western Michigan University appears to have been upheld over the weekend, an international human rights group told the Free Press.
Mujtaba'a al-Sweikat, was 17 when he was detained at King Fahd International Airport in 2012. He was there to fly to Western Michigan, where he hoped to become a student. Earlier that year, Al-Sweikat allegedly attended a pro-democracy rally, which led to his arrest.
Al-Sweikat has been tortured and earlier this month was transferred to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where executions by beheading customarily take place. He is among 14 awaiting execution.
News of the pending execution prompted an outcry across the world, which appears to have lead to an appeal, Adam Smith, spokesman for Reprieve, an international human rights group that has offices in New York and London and operates with partners around the world, told the Free Press.
The group believes the Specialised Criminal Court, which is the highly secretive terrorism court al-Sweikat was convicted in, did indeed refer the cases to Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court over the weekend for an “appeal.” According to the Ministry of Interior, the appeal is already finished, meaning that all 14 are now awaiting the implementation of their executions.
Smith said the appeal wasn't like an American courts appeal. A judge dealt with all 14 cases at the same time and gave the final confirmation to the death sentences. As far as Reprieve can tell, none of the defendants or their lawyers were present for the appeal, nor did they get any notice of the appeal.
The next step is a royal decree ordering the executions.
Western Michigan confirmed al-Sweikat had been accepted to the university in 2013, but never attended.
More than 100 faculty at Western Michigan have signed an open letter seeking a stay of the execution.
"As academics and teachers, we take pride in defending the rights of all people, wherever they may be in the world, to speak freely and debate openly without hindrance or fear. We publicly declare our support for Mujtaba'a and the thirteen others facing imminent execution. No one should face beheading for expressing beliefs in public protests.
"Mujtaba'a showed great promise as an applicant for English language and pre-finance studies. He was arrested at the airport gates as he readied to board a plane to visit our campus. We were unaware that at the moment we were ready to welcome him, he was locked away, beaten and tortured and made to 'confess' to acts for which he was condemned to death.
"President Donald J. Trump and other U.S. officials should be robust and vocal in defending freedom of expression the world over.
"We remain ready to welcome Mujtaba'a al-Sweikat to our campus."