IHRC, in conjunction with Fondation Islamique & Culturelle d’Ahl-El-Beit(s) (FICA), will hold a demonstration outside the UN regional headquarters in Geneva on Thursday 13 November in protest of the death penalty handed down to Saudi religious leader Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr.
Sheikh Al-Nimr is a leading Shia scholar who was convicted last month for his outspoken criticism of the Saudi monarchy and his calls for equality and reform on trumped up charges of apostasy and terrorism.
During his sentencing prosecutors reportedly asked for the death penalty to take the form of crucifixion where the decapitated body is publicly displayed.
Sheikh Nimr was arrested in 2012 against the backdrop of rising public unrest and dissension in Saudi Arabia as the Arab Spring took hold across the Middle East. Street protests started in Jeddah, and soon afterwards other protests flared up throughout the country. All the protests demanded more liberty, constitutional changes and an end to anti-Shia discrimination. During these protests security forces used live fire against protestors, killing many and starting a series of arrests against demonstrators and the medical personnel who treated them.
Activists and relatives say Sheikh Nimr, who has a wide following among Shia in Eastern Province and other states and became a symbol of the uprising, supported only peaceful protests and eschewed all violent opposition to the government.
The Specialised Criminal Court, Saudi Arabia’s terrorism tribunal, which handed down the death sentence has been widely criticised for flagrant due process violations, including broadly framed charges that do not resemble recognisable crimes, and denial of access to lawyers at arrest and during pre-trial detention, making it almost impossible to prepare cases for trial. The court has also been criticised for dismissing without investigation allegations of torture and admitting as evidence confessions that defendants said were coerced.
According to a 2011 report compiled by IHRC, there are an estimated 30,000 political prisoners in Saudi Arabia out of a population of approximately 18 million Saudi nationals.
IHRC chair Massoud Shadjareh said: “It is scandalous that Saudi Arabia, which is currently a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, can even contemplate such a barbaric fate for someone whose only crime was to stand up against the injustice and authoritarianism of the Riyadh regime. The criminalisation of Sheikh Nimr is intended to send a message to other dissidents and pro-reform activists in Saudi Arabia that no political dissent will be tolerated.”
Notes to editors:
Protest Venue: Place des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland, next to the broken chair in front of the UN, Palais des Nations
Date: Thursday, 13th November, 2014
Time: 16:00 – 18:00 local time.
IHRC’s hard-hitting report into political prisoners, ‘Saudi Arabia’s Political Prisoners: Towards a Third Decade of Silence’, can be downloaded at https://ihrc.org.uk/attachments/article/9867/Saudi%20Report%20A4-v04.pdf
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