By Samir Goswami, Director of Amnesty International USA’s Individuals & Communities at Risk Campaign
Last week, we issued an Urgent Action to the disturbing news that Saudi Arabian national Abdullah al-Qahtani was at imminent risk of execution.
Abdullah was convicted of robbery and murder under Iraq’s Anti-Terrorism Law. While in custody, he was viciously beaten, burned and asphyxiated into “confessing” to being a member of al-Qaida. Four of Abdullah’s six co-defendants were executed last week and for a time, it seemed as though Abdullah was next.
But then, an amazing thing happened. We emailed a petition out to our Amnesty members and within 24 hours, received over 30,000 signatures.
Abdullah is still alive and pressure from activists like you likely helped spare his life. Today, Abdullah’s petition has over 40,000 signatures. But make no mistake – his execution is imminent. Abdullah’s attorney urges continued vigilance:
“We thank Amnesty International members for their support; it is helping. We call for everybody’s continued help to save Abdullah’s life, to pressure the Iraqi government to give Abdullah the chance to a fair and just trial.”
Keep up the pressure – click here to join our call for justice for Abdullah. Your actions can help spare this man’s life.
Amnesty has been monitoring Abdullah’s case closely due to the very serious concerns that have been raised by his lawyers about his treatment in detention and the fairness of his trial. This is what they tell us about how Abdullah was treated:
“They put a plastic bag over his head so he could not breathe. After his near asphyxiation, they pulled on his genitals and burned him with cigarettes. After they broke his sternum, his torturers put a hood over Abdullah’s head and applied his thumbprints to 80 pages of documents.”
Even now, when his lawyers say they are offering evidence of his innocence, the sentence of death by hanging remains. A man’s life is on the line – help stop the imminent execution of Abdullah al-Qahtani.
Abdullah’s case is not unusual.
Ten years after the US-led invasion ended the brutal rule of Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s government remains enmeshed in a grim cycle of human rights abuses. Amnesty’s recent report – Iraq: A Decade of Abuses - catalogs years of torture and ill-treatment of detainees by Iraqi security forces and by foreign troops. Serious concerns persist about the integrity of the criminal justice system.
Today, Iraq is one of the world’s leading executioners. Since Iraq restored the death penalty in 2005, at least 447 prisoners have been executed. Hundreds of prisoners await execution on death row. Iraq’s government faces high levels of violence by armed groups, but it is still obliged to refrain from torture or ill-treatment and to respect the right to a fair trial.
Amnesty’s recently released 2012 World Death Penalty Report depicts a stark rise in executions in Iraq – at least 129 people were executed, almost double the 2011 figure of at least 68. Abdullah’s case is a clear illustration of the lack of respect for human rights among Iraqi authorities.
Take this action with me now – fight for the life and basic human rights of Abdullah and others who face the death penalty in Iraq.
Abdullah al-Qahtani is facing the ultimate human rights abuse - execution. Join us in demanding that his life be spared, and that he receive a fair trial.