21 Sep 2015

Who is Ali Mohammed al-Nimr and why is Saudi Arabia planning to behead and crucify him?

Ali Mohammed al-Nimr's name is well-known in eastern Saudi Arabia, the hotbed of the country's Shia minority and the scene of a burgeoning protest movement. Ali, 21, is the nephew of Shia cleric and activist Sheikh Nimr Baqr al-Nimr, who was jailed and sentenced to death for his fiery speeches against Saudi Arabia's ruling House of Saud dynasty, which has controlled the Arabian Peninsula since the 1930s. Sheikh al-Nimr was detained and then sentenced to death on terrorism charges as well as "waging war on God" for his speech during anti-government protests in Qatif, a city that saw massive street protests followed by a bloody crackdown by the Saudi authorities in the wake of the Arab Spring.

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Most of the 2.7 million Shia in Saudi Arabia live in al-Ahsa and al-Qatif districts in the country's eastern province, which also contains the bulk of the kingdom's oil. Ruled by a Sunni monarchy and under a strict interpretation of Islam, Wahabbism, Shia are often portrayed as heretics or agents of Riyadh's major rival, Iran. Ali Mohammed al-Nimr faces death by beheading and crucifixion for alleged participation in anti-government protests Facebook

It was revealed this week that Ali's appeal against the death penalty has been denied and he will be put to death by the Saudi authorities, first beheaded and then his body strapped to a cross and left to rot.

Ali was arrested in 2012 when he was 17 years old for taking part in a protest. According to anti-death penalty charity Reprieve, Ali was tortured and forced to sign a confession in 2012 and after two years he was sentenced to death in May 2014. During his "trial", Ali raised the claims of torture but no investigation took place and the court used the confession to sentence him, the charity claims. He was convicted under a range of charges, from the most seemingly innocuous to the gravely serious. As well as being accused of being part of a terrorist organisation, carrying weapons and targeting security patrols with Molotov cocktails, Ali was also charged with encouraging others to protest using his BlackBerry and explaining to others how to give first aid, Reprieve claimed in a statement on 17 September.

International Business Times