Fears that Saudi Arabia is set to ‘crucify’ juvenile prisoner

September 15, 2015

Image of a secret prison

Saudi Arabia has dismissed the final appeal of a prisoner sentenced to death as a child, leading to fears his execution could take place in a matter of days.

Ali Mohammed al-Nimr was arrested when he was 17 and initially held at a juvenile offenders facility. There is evidence that he was tortured and forced to sign a document amounting to a confession, which then formed the basis of the case against him.

Last week, his family found out that his final appeal had been heard in secret, without Ali’s knowledge, and dismissed. This means that there are now no remaining legal hurdles before he faces his sentence of ‘death by crucifixion,’ originally handed down on 27 May 2014.

Ali was arrested on 14 February 2012 in the wake of anti-Government protests, and has been accused by the authorities of participation in an illegal demonstration and firearms offences – no evidence has been produced for the latter charge, which he and his family strongly deny.   The opaque nature of the Specialised Criminal Court (SCC) through which Ali was convicted makes it hard to determine the detail of the charges against him.

The Government appears to have rested its case against him in large part on his relation to Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent religious leader in the Kingdom and human rights activist.

The Saudi Government has been widely criticised for its heavy-handed response against protesters and human rights activists since Arab Spring demonstrations began – including a death sentence for Sheikh Nimr. Ali is one of a number of people – thought to possibly include other juveniles – who has been sentenced to death following involvement in those protests. In January 2015, prominent Saudi blogger Raif Al-Badawi received the first of 1000 lashes as part of his sentence for his statements critical of the Saudi regime in 2012.

The Saudi Government has carried out executions at a high rate since the coming to power of King Salman in January 2015, surpassing 100 for the year so far.

Commenting, Maya Foa, Director of the death penalty team at legal charity Reprieve said: “No one should have to go through the ordeal Ali has suffered – torture, forced ‘confession,’ and an unfair, secret trial process, resulting in a sentence of death by ‘crucifixion.’ But worse still, Ali was a vulnerable child when he was arrested and this ordeal began. His execution – based apparently on the authorities’ dislike for his uncle, and his involvement in anti-government protests – would violate international law and the most basic standards of decency. It must be stopped.”