Saudi authorities are reportedly planning to execute dozens of people in a single day, including young Shia activist Ali al-Nimr.
Mr al-Nimr, 21, was arrested at age 17 for offences including sedition, rioting, and chanting anti-government slogans. He is among more than 50 people convicted of terror offences whom Saudi Arabia could execute soon.
According to Saudi media, including Okaz and al-Riyadh, between 52 and 55 people are awaiting execution for “terrorist crimes”, including Ali al-Nimr and fellow juvenile offenders Abdullah al-Zaher and Hussein al-Marhoon. The three were sentenced to death for crimes committed while below the age of 18, despite such sentences being illegal under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“Saudi Arabia’s macabre spike in executions this year, coupled with the secretive and arbitrary nature of court decisions and executions in the kingdom, leave us no option but to take these latest warning signs very seriously,” said Amnesty International’s James Lynch. “These executions must not go ahead and Saudi Arabia must lift the veil of secrecy around its death penalty cases, as part of a fundamental overhaul of its criminal justice system.”
Ali al-Nimr and his family have claimed he was tortured into confessing to his crimes, and his impending execution is believed to be an act of political revenge against his uncle, outspoken Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, who has also been sentenced to death.
“There are certainly no allegations that he has killed somebody, so it seems to be politically motivated,” said UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions Christof Heyns. “It’s basically an assertion of the authority of the state that is at stake.”
Despite repeated calls to King Salman for clemency, the government of Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia has defended its execution practices, saying that it has strict safeguards to ensure fair trials and that all executions are carried out in accordance with Sharia law. – Jake Nelson
Top photo of Ali al-Nimr from Free Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr’s Facebook page.