Dawood al-Marhoon was just 17 when he was arrested for allegedly participating in an anti-government protest in Saudi Arabia. After refusing to spy on protesters for the security forces, he was tortured and forced to sign a blank document that would later contain his ‘confession’.
Dawood was sentenced to death by beheading on the basis of this ‘confession’. He now sits in solitary confinement, and could be executed at any moment.
As a teenager, Dawood was sociable and popular. He loved playing football and computer games. He excelled in his studies, and dreamed of pursuing his love for technology and computers by studying a degree in engineering. From February 2011, thousands of young Saudis took to the streets demanding reform across the Kingdom in Arab Spring protests. Dawood was allegedly one of them.
During questioning, Saudi police demanded Dawood spy on protesters on their behalf. After he refused, security forces arrested him from the Dammam Central Hospital, where he was undergoing treatment for an eye injury sustained in a traffic accident. Saudi forces surrounded the hospital and arrested him as he prepared for surgery.
Torture and forced ‘confession’
Dawood was transferred to a juvenile offenders’ facility, where he was held incommunicado. For two weeks, he had no contact with the outside world. Dawood’s family had no idea where the authorities were holding him, and he was prevented from speaking to a lawyer.
In the facility, he endured beatings, abuse and torture in ‘interrogation sessions’ lasting up to 18 hours at a time. Eventually he was made to sign a blank document that would later contain his confession to the ‘crime’ of attending anti-government protests, and association with fellow young protester Ali Mohammed Al-Nimr.
He was held for one year and four months before being transferred to the General Department of Investigations headquarters in Dammam. All access to legal counsel was denied during this period.
Trial and death sentence
On 21 October 2014, after a total of seven hearings he was sentenced to death by beheading by Saudi Arabia’s widely criticized Specialized Criminal Court (SCC).
Throughout his time in detention and during his trial, Saudi authorities prevented Dawood from speaking with a lawyer.
The decision was appealed but the lawyers were not informed of any further trial proceedings. On 29 September 2015, the SCC confirmed the death sentence of death by beheading against Dawoud.
In late September 2015, the Saudi authorities transferred Dawood from Dammam prison to Riyadh’s Al-Hayir prison, where he is being kept in solitary confinement with other people facing execution. Secrecy surrounding Saudi’s execution practices prevents the family or the prisoner from receiving prior notification of when the execution will be carried out, so Dawood could now be executed at any time.