Press Release

AFT on the Imminent Saudi Beheading of University of Michigan Student

For Release:


Janet Bass

WASHINGTON— Earlier today, the AFT learned that Mujtaba’a al-Sweikat, a prospective college student who was detained at King Fahd Airport on his way to attend college in the United States in 2012, was moved last night from detention in Dammam to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where executions by beheading customarily take place.

Mujtaba’a was accused of attending protests that began in February 2011 and continued through 2012. United Nations observers have described these protests as peaceful. Mujtaba’a was held in detention in Dammam since his arrest, and was tried and subsequently sentenced to death on June 1, 2016. On May 25 of this year, Saudi Arabia’s high court confirmed his death sentence. International human rights organizations believe that his execution by beheading may be imminent.

Below are statements of two AFT leaders:

AFT President Randi Weingarten:
“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. This group includes two youths—one of whom, Mujtaba’a al-Sweikat, was at the airport coming to the United States to attend college when he was arrested—a man with disabilities, and 11 other people. People must have a right to speak and associate freely. 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.”

AFT Michigan President David Hecker:
“At this hour, we understand that Mujtaba’a al-Sweikat was a student on his way to the United States to attend the University of Michigan when he was arrested without charges, purportedly for attending a political rally. President Trump displayed a close relationship with Saudi leaders during his recent trip to the kingdom. I urge him to use that relationship to plead with the new Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to halt the executions.”

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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.