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Saudi Arabia has executed a man for offences that rights groups say he committed while aged 17, despite the kingdom’s assurance that it had abolished the death penalty for minors.

Mustafa Hashem al-Darwish was arrested in 2015 for protest-related offences.

Saudi authorities say he was charged with forming a terror cell and trying to carry out an armed revolt.

But rights groups had called for a stop to his execution, saying their trial had been unfair.

Amnesty International and Reprieve, an anti-death penalty charity, say 26-year-old al-Darwish had already recanted his confession, which was allegedly made after he was tortured. Saudi authorities have not publicly commented on the accusation.

According to Reuters news agency, al-Darwish’s charges included “seeking to disturb security by rioting” and “sowing discord”.

Evidence against him included a picture “offensive to the security forces”, and his participation in over 10 “riot” gatherings in 2011 and 2012.

Reform and repression go hand in hand in Saudi Arabia
The Saudi interior ministry said al-Darwish had also attempted to kill local security forces, state media reports. However court documents did not specify the dates of any of his offences, according to Reuters.

Reprieve said al-Darwish’s family received no warning about the execution in advance, and only learned about it online.

“How can they execute a boy because of a photograph on his phone?,” his family said in a statement, published by Reprieve. “Since his arrest, we have known nothing but pain. It is a living death for the whole family.”

The Saudi interior ministry, cited by state news agency SPA, said al-Darwish was executed in Dammam, a city in the oil-rich Eastern Province.

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