Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (Reprieve) – A Saudi juvenile facing imminent ‘crucifixion’ has spoken of his hope for the future, despite a recent decision by the country’s courts to uphold his sentence.
During a prison visit from his family on Friday, Ali Mohammed al-Nimr is said to have confirmed that he had just learned about the sentence. He said: “I just want to be released”, but added: “I have faith and I live with hope. If things change [with my sentence], I will thank God – and if not, I lived happily with my hope.”
Ali was 17 when he was arrested in February 2012 in the country’s Eastern Province. He was tortured into ‘confessing’ to a role in protests, and despite later recanting his statement, he was sentenced to be ‘crucified’ by the country’s secretive Specialized Criminal Court. Several days ago, it emerged that his sentence had been upheld without his knowledge.
Ali has never been permitted to meet with his lawyer, and with legal avenues now exhausted, he could be executed at any moment with no prior notification to his family. The sentence will involve his being beheaded, and his body displayed in public.
His comments come amid controversy over the UK government’s approach to the case. Last night it emerged that leaked Saudi diplomatic cables suggest that the UK may have had a deal with the Saudi authorities to secure both countries’ place on the UN’s Human Rights Council – despite Saudi Arabia’s poor human rights record. Speaking yesterday at the Labour conference, party leader Jeremy Corbyncalled on Prime Minister David Cameron to halt the UK’s “fawning and uncritical support” for the Saudi government, and instead “intervene now personally“ to save Ali.
Mr Corbyn also called for the withdrawal of a Ministry of Justice bid to provide services to the Saudi prison system. Concerns have been raised that the bid, if won, would make the UK complicit in abuses such as torture and executions.
Commenting, Maya Foa, director of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said:
“Ali al-Nimr has been through the most horrifying ordeal at the hands of the Saudi government. He was arrested as a juvenile, tortured into a bogus ‘confession’, put through a mockery of a trial, and sentenced to ‘crucifixion’, in a blatant attempt to make an example of him. Countries such as the UK and the US – close allies of the Saudis – must intervene urgently to stop his execution. Ali must be released without delay to live out his hopes for the future.”
This report was prepared by Reprieve.