Human rights activists have raised alarm that Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, arrested in Saudi Arabia in 2012 when he was only 17 years old, and sentenced to death by crucifixion and beheading in 2014, could be executed within days after his final appeal was dismissed recently.
Al-Nimr was arrested in February 14, 2012 during a crackdown by the Saudi authorities against anti-government protesters in the Shiite province of Qatif. He was charged with participating in anti-government protests and illegal possession of firearms.
The 17-year-old was held in a juvenile detention facility at the time he was arrested. Prosecutors said he confessed to the charges against him.
But human rights activists following the case said the teenager was not allowed access to a lawyer. They also said he was tortured and forced to make a false confession and that no evidence was produced to support the charge of illegal possession of firearms.
He was sentenced to death by crucifixion and beheading on May 27, 2014.
The needlessly cruel method of execution involves first beheading the victim and then tying the decapitated body to a cross, often in a public place as a warning to others.
The use of beheading and crucifixion as a method of execution by the Saudi government has been condemned worldwide as savage and barbaric. It was used in 2013 in the execution of five Yemeni men. The men were crucified in public, reportedly in front of the University of Jizan at a time that students were taking examinations.
Al-Nimr appealed the death sentence passed in May 2014. But the appeal process was conducted secretly in the absence of al-Nimr and without his knowledge.
Human rights groups are saying that with the dismissal of his appeal, al-Nimr has exhausted all legal means available to fight the death sentence and thus his execution could take place any day following the execution of his uncle on Thursday, September 17, according to International Business Times.
Opponents and critics of the Saudi regime allege that al-Nimr is being victimized because he is the nephew of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, 53-year-old Islamic religious leader, campaigner for minorities rights and critic of the Saudi regime.
Sheikh al-Nimr was also sentenced to death by crucifixion after he was arrested in July 2012 on charges of “insulting the king” and threatening “national unity” with seditious religious sermons.
Maya Foa, with the human rights group Reprieve, told the International Business Times that the teenager, al-Nimr, now 20 years old, was denied access to a lawyer, tortured, and forced to make a false confession. Foa also said that the appeal trial was held in secret and that al-Nimr knew nothing about it.
“No one should have to go through the ordeal Ali has suffered… Ali was a vulnerable child when he was arrested… His execution, based apparently on the authorities’ dislike for his uncle… must be stopped.”
The group has called on the EU to intervene and prevent the execution of al-Nimr. Campaigners have also called on the U.K. authorities to use their influence with the Saudi regime in favor of the young man.
“It is hard to see what British interests are strong enough to trump the principle that we should not be supporting the ‘crucifixion’ of juveniles.”
“It is extremely worrying to see the British Government abdicating its basic human rights values in the interests of cozying up to the Saudis.”
The Saudi authorities use the capital punishment so liberally for a variety of offenses that they were short of executioners and had to post a job opening recently.
The rate of executions in Saudi Arabia is surpassed only by China and Iran.
[Images: Facebook/Free Sheikh Nimri Baquir al-Nimri]