Student Reportedly Faces Execution in Saudi Arabia

July 17, 2017

A student who was admitted to Western Michigan University is possibly facing imminent execution in Saudi Arabia for an offense related to attending a protest, according to the human rights group Reprieve and the American Federation of Teachers.

Reprieve says in a press release that Mujtaba’a al-Sweikat was only 17 when he was arrested. A caseworker for the organization said it their understanding that he was arrested in December 2012 at the airport while en route to visit U.S. colleges and to enroll in a preparatory English language course. He was interested in attending Western Michigan University, where university officials confirmed that a student with a similarly spelled name, Mojtaba Nader Alsuwaiikt, was admitted in 2013 but never attended. (The Reprieve caseworker clarified that transliterations of names from Arabic to English tend to be inconsistent across translators.) The Reprieve caseworker said that al-Sweikat also received an offer of admission from Oregon State University.

“We were stunned to learn, for the first time today, of this situation,” Western Michigan staid in a statement. “It is not unusual for an admitted student to opt out of enrolling at the last minute, so we had no idea there was such a troubling reason behind this student's failure to come to campus.”

“The AFT information makes it clear that the critical national political figures with influence in such a situation are informed," the university said. "We join the AFT in urging them to use that influence to ask the Saudi government to exhibit compassion.”

In a statement it later revised to correct the name of the American university that al-Sweikat was planning on attending, AFT President Randi Weingarten said, “Saudi Arabia’s threat to behead its own citizens for attending an anti-government protest is an unthinkable and despicable violation of international law and basic humanity. Should these executions occur, Saudi Arabia should be considered a pariah nation by the world. We implore President Trump, as the standard-bearer for our great nation, to do everything in his power to stop the atrocities that may otherwise take place in Saudi Arabia.”

Reprieve reports that al-Sweikat is one of 14 Saudi men facing imminent execution for protest-related offenses who were moved to the capital city of Riyadh in recent days. The Saudi embassy did not respond to an inquiry Sunday about al-Sweikat's case.

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