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|Nelson Mandela 1918-2013|
| International News | Wednesday March 6 2013 6:14
Saudi Arabia has postponed the scheduled executions of seven Saudis, a local official says, as rights groups said the men were condemned for crimes committed when they were minors.
The official did not say when the executions, in the southern region of Aseer, would now be carried out.
"Following a request by Aseer governor Faisal bin Khaled al-Saud, it has been decided to postpone the execution to improve preparations for applying the verdict," said the official, who is close to the governor.
The planned executions raised alarm among rights groups, with Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) separately appealing to the Saudi authorities for stays.
The two groups said in separate statements that the men were juveniles when they were convicted of armed robbery, a crime punishable by death in the kingdom which applies a strict interpretation of Islamic sharia law.
"All seven men were between 16 and 20 when authorities arrested them in 2006 for allegedly committing a robbery in 2005," HRW said.
"There is strong evidence suggesting that the trials of all seven men violated basic principles of the right to a fair trial."
HRW Deputy Middle East Director Eric Goldstein said in a statement late on Monday that "it will be outrageous if the Saudi authorities go ahead with these executions."
"It is high time for the Saudis to stop executing child offenders and start observing their obligations under international human rights law."
Amnesty International said the men were "tortured to make them confess" and sentenced to death following a "summary trial that was grossly unfair."
So far this year, the Saudi authorities have executed 17 people.
In 2012, the kingdom executed 76 people, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.
Human Rights Watch put the number at 69.
Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Saudi Arabia law.
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