Human Rights activists to Shafaqna – “Sheikh Al Nimr should be set free at once!”

SHAFAQNA – Sheikh Nimr Al Nimr is a well-known and vocal critic of the Saudi government’s harassment of religious minorities. A keen rights activists and a fervent defender of one’s right to self-political determination and social justice, Sheikh Al Nimr has dedicated his life to promoting peace and religious tolerance.

An advocate for the Shia community, Sheikh Al Nimr has become a symbol of resistance in the face of religious and political persecution – a hero for millions around the world, an example to follow for his compatriots.

Singled out by Al Saud Royals for he dared challenged injustice, corruption and nepotism, Sheikh Al Nimr was unjustly targeted and imprisoned by the authorities – a prisoner of conscience.

Sheikh Al Nimr was shot and arrested two years ago by Saudi security forces and held in detention for 250 days before finally being brought to court.

On October 15, Sheikh Nimr was sentenced to death, with the possibility of crucifixion as the method of execution. Sheikh Nimr has only engaged in peaceful dissent and is being persecuted by the government purely for his exercise of free expression and freedom of beliefs.

Now he could be executed by the Saudi regime.

Shafaqna talked to several right groups and rights activists in the hope to speak a truce loud enough for the world to hear and politicians to act on.

A man such as Sheikh Nimr does not belong in a prison cell, but out in the world teaching tolerance and courage before tyranny.

“The death sentence against Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr is part of a campaign by the authorities in Saudi Arabia to crush all dissent, including those defending the rights of the Kingdom’s Shi’a Muslim community,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

“Saudi Arabia’s harsh treatment of a prominent Shia cleric is only adding to the existing sectarian discord and unrest.Saudi Arabia’s path to stability in the Eastern Province lies in ending systematic discrimination against Shia citizens, not in death sentences,” said Joe Stork, Deputy Middle East Director, Human Rights Watch

“All Islamic schools of thought have serious reservations on the particular intolerant ideology of Saudi monarchy. Saudi monarchs hurt the Muslims across the world by razing shrines and graves of companions, wives and Ahl-e-Bait of Hazrat Mohammad, last apostle and Prophet of God,” said Pir Aijaz Hashmi – A well-known Sunni scholar and President of Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan (JUP)

He added, “Instead of denying the legitimate rights to the political opponents, Saudi rulers must ensure that all Muslims live in Saudi Arabia with unity and cohesion in peace with full citizens rights so that nobody could [accuse] Saudi regime of [being] unjust, brutal and despotic.”

Amnesty International stated that apart from the charge of firing at security forces on 8 July 2012, the other charges, of “disobeying the ruler”, “inciting sectarian strife” and “encouraging, leading and participating in demonstrations” were based on documentary evidence of Al Nimr’s sermons and interviews.

Amnesty viewed these as representing the right to free speech and that al-Nimr did not incite violence in these. Amnesty stated that witnesses whose testimonies were used during the trial did not testify in court and that Al Nimr’s lawyer was not given a fair possibility to defend him.

The European Saudi Society for Human Rights (ESSHR) reported details of five of Al Nimr’s court appearances following the 8 July 2012 arrest. According to the ESSHR, 33 charges were laid in the first appearance, on 25 March 2013. On the 29 April 2013 court appearance, the defence was unable to respond to the charges because it did not have the details of the list of charges.

On 23 December 2013, Al Nimr’s lawyer said that Al Nimr was unable to respond to the charges because he did not have a pen and paper. Al Nimr’s lawyer was informed one day before the fourth appearance, on 15 April 2014. The ESSHR stated that neither Al Nimr’s lawyer nor his family were informed prior to the fifth court session, on 22 April 2014.

“Saudi Arabia’s harsh treatment of a prominent Shia cleric is only adding to the existing sectarian discord and unrest,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Right Watch. “Saudi Arabia’s path to stability in the Eastern Province lies in ending systematic discrimination against Shia citizens, not in death sentences.”

“Unfair trials of Shias amount to no more than a legal veneer for state repression of demands to end long-term discrimination,” Stork stressed, adding  “Saudi Arabia’s judicial council should immediately review al-Nimr’s verdict and quash it if they discover clear due process violations.”

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