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Seven men have been executed in Saudi Arabia, officials say, for a crime they committed before they turned 18. Their fate came despite appeals by UN experts and human rights groups.

Human rights activists in Saudi Arabia said they were shot dead in a square in the southern city of Abha.

The seven men were sentenced to death in 2009 for an armed robbery committed in 2006. Their execution had been scheduled for last week but was suspended while authorities reviewed their case. Human rights groups claim the men retracted their confessions, which, they claim, were obtained after torture.

On Tuesday, a group of UN independent experts urged the Saudi authorities not to proceed with the executions.

It had been expected that the men would be beheaded, but unconfirmed reports over the weekend said the authorities had been forced to resort to using firing squads because of a shortage of swordsmen.

Wednesday’s executions bring to 26 the number of people put to death in Saudi Arabia so far this year.

In 2012, the kingdom executed 76 people, according to an AFP tally based on official figures. The US-based Human Rights Watch put the number at 69.

Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Saudi Arabia’s strict version of Sharia, or Islamic law.

Copyright © 2014 euronews

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