Aug. 2 (UPI) — The president of the American Federation of Teachers has asked the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. to stop the beheading of 14 Saudi nationals sentenced to death for protesting the government, including a young man who was planning to attend college in the U.S.
“As I know you are familiar with our family and community culture in the United States, I am appealing to your compassion as a father and son to intervene with His Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to suspend the sentences,” AFT president Randi Weingarten wrote to Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz on Monday.
AFT has waged a campaign for more than a month to prevent the executions, even asking President Donald Trump to intervene. The teachers union first got involved when it began advocating to save the life of Mujtaba’a al-Sweikat, a prospective college student planning to study in the U.S., who was arrested in 2012 for attending peaceful protests criticizing the government of human rights abuses.
Al-Sweikat, who was 17 at the time of his arrest, was detained just before he was about to board an airplane from Riyadh to Michigan to view the campus of Western Michigan University.
He was sentenced to death on June 1, 2016 and the Saudi Arabian high court confirmed his death sentence May 25, reported the Detroit News.
“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,” said Weingarten. “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.”
WMU found out about al-Sweikat’s execution date in July and has since become an advocate for the U.S. to intervene with 116 WMU leaders signing a statement to stop the execution.
“As academics and teachers, we take pride in defending the rights of all people, wherever they may be in the world, to speak freely and debate openly without hindrance or fear,” the statement said. “We publicly declare our support for Mujtaba and the thirteen others facing imminent execution. No one should face beheading for expressing beliefs in public protests.”
Trump, the U.S. State Department, and the Saudi embassy in the U.S. have not yet responded to the requests.