Protests erupt in Saudi, demonstrators call for release of Sheikh Nimr

People in Saudi Arabia started a new wave of anti-regime protests, calling for the freedom of the jailed senior Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr.

The protests heightened after the Saudi interior ministry approved Sheikh Nimr’s execution.

Protesters in the Awamiya region of the city of Qatif once again started spraying anti-regime graffiti to show condemnation of Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz,

“Down with Al Saud” read one of the graffiti signs sprayed in different streets of the Qatif city, including al-Thura street, while the other one called Prince “Salman, the Traitor”.

The residents of Awamiya have held protests in recent days despite intensified security measures to condemn the execution sentence of Sheikh Nimr.

Earlier this week, Saudi Crown Prince and Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef issued a decree to execute Sheikh Nimr without prior notice.

Mohammad Nimr, the activist’s brother, said that the appeal court and the Saudi supreme court have given a permission to the interior ministry to practice the death sentence, and the decree is now waiting for Saudi King Salman’s endorsement.

Based on the decree, Sheikh al-Nimr can now be executed any moment and without any prior notice like his nephew, Ali al-Nimr who was arrested and convicted to capital punishment without any legal grounds.

If the sentence is put into effect, Nimr’s family will be informed of his execution only through the mass media.

Ali al-Nimr, the Sheikh’s nephew, is also to be executed at any time after he was convicted for a crime he allegedly committed at 17. The court was never presented with any corroborative evidence in his case, and activists believe that the minor is to be executed only to put more pressure on the Nimr family and the Shiite community in Saudi Arabia.

Sheikh Baqir Al-Nimr was arrested in 2012 for reportedly being involved in anti-al Saud protests in Qatif, in the country’s Eastern province.

A group of independent United Nations human rights experts have urged the Saudi Arabian government to stop al-Nimr’s execution, noting reports suggest he was tortured and subject to ill treatment which forced him to confess.

Sheikh Baqir al-Nimr was attacked and arrested in the Qatif region in July 2012. His arrest sparked widespread protests in the kingdom, leaving several people dead.

On October 15, 2014, Nimr was sentenced to death at the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh. In reaction to the sentence, people took to streets in the city of Qatif in Eastern Province to condemn the move.

Amnesty International has called the death sentence “appalling”, saying the verdict should be quashed.

Nimr was given the death sentence on charges of disturbing the kingdom’s security and making anti-government speeches.

He is the Imam of al-Awamiya Mosque in Qatif and has spent most of his two-year detention in solitary confinement at the al-Ha’ir prison in Riyadh, according to Amnesty International.

Protesters have staged rallies worldwide to condemn the death sentence handed down to Sheikh Nimr, and have voiced solidarity with the dissident Saudi religious scholar.

There have been numerous demonstrations in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich Eastern Province since 2011, with the protestors calling for political reform and an end to widespread discrimination. Several people have been killed and many others have been injured or arrested during the demonstrations.

The Persian Gulf monarchy has come under fire from international human rights organizations, which have criticized it for failing to address the rights situation in the kingdom. Critics say the country shows zero-tolerance toward dissent.

In January, Joe Stork, the deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa division for Human Right Watch, slammed Saudi Arabia’s crackdown on activists in the kingdom.

“Saudi Arabia should free imprisoned activists and take other concrete, visible steps to show the government is willing to improve its abysmal rights record,” Stork said.

Stork also questioned the election of Saudi Arabia as a member of the Human Rights Council in November last year, saying that Riyadh has a record of repression and its membership is not warranted.

Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy that does not allow any election.

On May 9, several Saudi rights activists warned the Riyadh rulers that Sheikh Nimr’s execution would set fire to Saudi Arabia.

“The Saudi people will ask for a halt in the execution of the death sentence (for Sheikh Nimr) by staging peaceful rallies and protests,” Sheikh Abbas al-Qatifi told FNA.

Stressing the strong opposition of Saudi Arabia’s Eastern province to the execution of the Shiite cleric, he said, “The case of Sheikh Nimr is a Saudi show played by the Saudi princes at the order of the US and the Zionist regime as part of a plot in the country and even other Islamic countries.”

Also in relevant remarks on May 9, Abdolhadi al-Sattari, another Saudi rights activist, told FNA that the Saudi officials have resorted to terrorists to suppress the Shiites inside and outside Saudi Arabia.

He warned that the Eastern province’s people will take revenge for the blood of their martyrs.

Also other rights activists said that the Saudi youth have condemned plans to execute Sheikh Nimr and are preparing themselves for a big revolution against the country’s cruel rulers.

An informed Saudi source told FNA on May 6 that Riyadh planned to execute Sheikh Nimr on May 14.

“The Saudi regime plans to execute Sheikh Nimr on the death anniversary of Nayef bin Abdullah, the former Saudi crown prince,” the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of his information, said.

The source said the Saudi rulers know that the move would engulf the monarchy in the flames of unrest and they might have to pay a heavy price for the execution of Sheikh Nimr, and they have prepared riot combat plans after consultations with several western security experts.

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