Saudi Arabia has been urged to spare the lives of two juveniles and an ageing political activist, after plans emerged to execute at least one of them this Thursday (14th).
Sheikh Nimr Baqir Al Nimr, a 53-year old critic of the Saudi regime, and two juveniles, Ali Mohammed al-Nimr and Dawoud Hussain al-Marhoon, were arrested during a 2012 crackdown on anti-government protests in the Shiite province of Qatif. After a trial marred by irregularities, Mr Al Nimr was sentenced to death by crucifixion on charges including ‘insulting the King’ and delivering religious sermons that ‘disrupt national unity’. This week, it emerged that the authorities plan to execute him on Thursday, despite protests from the UN and Saudi human rights organizations.
The planned execution of Mr Al Nimr has prompted fears for the safety of the two juveniles, who were both 17 when they were arrested and eventually sentenced to death on similar charges. Both teenagers were tortured and denied access to lawyers, and faced trials that failed to meet international standards. All three prisoners, including Mr Al Nimr, have not yet exhausted their legal appeals.
Saudi Arabia has carried out executions at an unprecedented rate since the coming to power of King Salman in 2015. On May 6th 2015, the Kingdom carried out its 79th execution of the year, and it is already close to surpassing its 2014 total of 87 executions. Human rights organization Reprieve has urged the European Union to intervene with Saudi Arabia to prevent the killings.
Commenting, Maya Foa, director of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said: “Saudi Arabia’s wave of executions since the start of this year has provoked widespread disgust. But these killings, if they are allowed to go ahead, will mark a new low. The sentencing to death of children and the elderly on blatantly political charges is inexcusable, and smacks of an attempt to silence internal dissent in the Kingdom. The Saudi government’s close allies – including the US and European countries – must step in now to stop this brutality.”