Saudi protesters denounce death sentence against Sheikh Nimr
People have taken to the streets in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province to denounce a death sentence by the country’s top court against the prominent Shia cleric, Sheikh Nimr Baqr al-Nimr.
The protesters marched down the streets of the town of Awamiyah in the Qatif region on Thursday, condemning the decision by the Saudi Supreme Court.
The demonstrators pledged to continue their campaign until the death verdict is overturned.
On October 25, the Saudi court upheld a death sentence issued against the cleric last year. The execution warrant will be sent to Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to be approved and then carried out.
The execution of the Shia cleric can be carried out by the Interior Ministry without any prior warning if the Saudi king signs the order.
Sheikh Nimr was attacked and arrested in Qatif in July 2012, and has been charged with undermining the kingdom’s security, making anti-government speeches, and defending political prisoners. He has denied the accusations.
In a Monday letter to United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al Hussein, the Islamic Human Rights Commission called for exerting pressure on Riyadh to revoke the death sentence and release the cleric immediately.
Nimr “was detained on trumped up charges of apostasy and terrorism after leading anti-government protests in the country. He has been severely tortured in detention,” the letter read.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has also called on Saudi Arabia to halt Nimr’s execution.
Speaking at the UN headquarters in New York on Wednesday, Ban’s spokesmen, Stephane Dujarric, said that during a phone call, the UN chief has asked King Salman to overturn the death sentence against the Shia cleric.
Peaceful demonstrations erupted in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province in February 2011, with protesters demanding reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners, and an end to widespread discrimination against the people of the oil-rich region. Several people have been killed and many others injured or arrested during the rallies.
International rights bodies, including Amnesty International, have criticized Saudi Arabia for its grim human rights record.