The Austrian foreign ministry says the government is preparing to shut down a Saudi-backed center for religious dialogue in Vienna in an attempt to prevent the execution of 18-year-old Murtaja Qureiris.
Saudi authorities arrested Qureiris when he was 13, three years after he participated in a bike protest during the 2011 Arab Spring. He is now facing the death penalty in Saudi Arabia after being held for almost four years in pre-trial detention, as detailed in an exclusive CNN report published last week.
Austria’s parliament passed a resolution Wednesday, which said it would “use all political and diplomatic means available to prevent the execution” of the teenager. The resolution also calls on the government to “quit the treaty concerning the residency of the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID) [in Austria].”
The resolution goes on to say that “after the (Jamal) Khashoggi case the Saudi government has once again shown how it deals with its critics and that it doesn’t even shy away from murdering children/teenagers.”
“The regime in Riyadh only understands a clear and precise language: no dialogue without respect for life and human decency,” it added. Saudi Arabia has denied that its leaders were involved in the death of Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who was killed in Istanbul in October.
Austria’s Foreign Ministry told CNN that it is assessing “the legally necessary steps and (preparing) the implementation process.”
CNN has contacted the Saudi government for comment. Riyadh has not responded to previous requests for comment about Qureiris.
Center says it’s an easy target
KAICIID’s website describes itself as an intergovernmental organization that aims to use dialogue to resolve conflict. Its founding members were Saudi Arabia, Austria and Spain. The Holy See is a founding observer.
In a statement on its website, KAICIID said it was concerned by the recent move: “KAICIID is not an embassy, or NGO, or in any way the policy arm of any state, including Saudi Arabia. It is not a sinister extension of any state’s influence or strategies.”
“As the Austrian political scene becomes more heated ahead of impending elections, KAICIID is all too easily inserted into political and social narratives that are completely divorced from its status and mission.”
In April, Saudi Arabia announced it had executed 37 men who, according to rights group Reprieve, were mostly from the kingdom’s Shia minority. The country has one of the highest rates of execution in the world, and has frequently been criticized by rights groups for executing people who were minors at the time of the alleged crimes.
Qureiris was 10 years old when he committed at least one of the acts alleged in his charge sheet, CNN has learned.
He was charged with accompanying his activist brother, Ali Qureiris, on a motorcycle ride to a police station in the eastern Saudi city of Awamiya, where Ali allegedly threw Molotov cocktails at the facility.
A UN Working Group believes that the minor had been tortured, his confessions “extracted” and that his arrest was arbitrary.