Dawood al-Marhoon

Dawood al-Marhoon was just a 17 year old boy when he was arrested for allegedly participating in an anti-government protest. After refusing to spy on protesters, he was tortured and forced to sign a blank document that would later contain his ‘confession’. At Dawood’s trial, the prosecution requested death by crucifixion while refusing him a lawyer.

In the end, Dawood was sentenced to death by beheading. He has now been moved solitary confinement and could be executed at any moment, without prior notification.

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. Thousands of young Saudis took to the streets demanding reform across the Kingdom in Arab Spring protests from February 2011 – Dawood was allegedly one of them.

He was questioned by Saudi police and asked to “spy” on protesters. After he refused, Saudi 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 nearly two weeks. During this time, he was tortured and abused. While still a child, he was beaten and kicking, trampled, and verbally abused. At least one interrogation session lasted for 18 hours.

The Saudi authorities tortured him for weeks and refused to allow him to communicate with anyone on the outside world. For two weeks, Dawood’s family had no idea where Saudi authorities were holding him, and he was prevented from speaking to a lawyer.

The investigators made him 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. Reprieve understands that the Public Prosecution requested death by crucifixion.

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 Dawoud could now be executed at any time.