Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (Reprieve) – The family of a juvenile sentenced to ‘crucifixion’ in Saudi Arabia have appealed to the Saudi authorities to spare him, as pressure mounts on the US and the UK to intervene.
Speaking to AFP, Mohamed al-Nimr said he hoped the King would save his son, student Ali al-Nimr, who was 17 when he was arrested in 2012 in the wake of protests in the Eastern Province. Ali was tortured into signing a false ‘confession’, which was then used to convict him, and it emerged last week that the unusually harsh sentence had recently been upheld without Ali’s knowledge. With legal avenues now exhausted, Ali could be executed at any moment, with no prior notification of his family. Mr al-Nimr said “we hope that the king will not sign” the execution order for his son.
The appeal comes as the UK and the US – strong allies of the Saudi government – faced questions on their failure to speak out about the case. Questioned yesterday by AP, US State Department spokesman Mark C Toner refused to say he’d welcome a commutation of the sentence, saying that he was “not aware of the case.”
The UK government has so far limited itself to a brief statement last week that “We continue to raise our human rights concerns with the Saudi authorities, including their use of the death penalty.” The Ministry of Justice has also faced criticism after it indicated that it would continue with an ongoing bid to provide prison services to the Saudi government.
In contrast, the French government yesterday joined UN experts in calling for the death sentence to be commuted, because Ali was a juvenile at the time of his arrest. The French Foreign Ministry said it was “concerned by the situation of Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, who was sentenced to death even though he was a minor at the time of the events […] We call for the execution to be called off.” The group of independent United Nations human rights experts on Tuesday asked the Saudi authorities “to immediately halt the scheduled execution”, and to ensure a “fair retrial” of Ali.
Commenting, Maya Foa, director of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said:
“Saudi Arabia’s plan to behead and crucify Ali al-Nimr, a juvenile, for attending a protest is an outrage – the French government and UN experts are right to be calling for it to be cancelled. It’s deeply troubling that the UK and the US – both close allies of the Saudi government – are staying silent. The international community must stand firm against this utterly unjustified sentence, and call on the Saudi authorities to change course.”
This report was prepared by Reprieve.