The Saudi regime seems to be short-circuiting its tortuous existence by upholding the most barbaric sentences against those that dare to criticize lack of basic freedoms in the kingdom. The death sentence passed against Sheikh Nimr Al-Nimr reflects the regime's extreme nervousness and exposes its brutal nature.
Wednesday October 15, 2014, 23:04 DST
Not only people in the eastern province of Qatif took to the streets to protest the Saudi court’s upholding of the death sentence against Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, the rights group Amnesty International also condemned it as a travesty of justice.
Calling the death sentence “appalling”, Amnesty demanded that the verdict be set aside since the original trial did not meet even the minimum standards of justice.
“The death sentence against Sheikh Nimr 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 Shia Muslim community,” said Amnesty’s deputy director for Middle East and North Africa Program, Sa‘id Boumedouha today.
The Specialized Criminal Court in the Saudi capital Riyadh upheld the Sheikh’s sentence earlier in the day. As anticipated, it evoked a strong reaction from the people in Qatif who took to the streets to condemn the sentence.
Sheikh Nimr’s brother, Mohammad, was arrested after he tweeted news about the Sheikh’s sentence. The regime’s moves clearly betray great nervousness and a lack of confidence in its ability to govern justly.
“The shocking death sentence against Sheikh al-Nimr followed by the arrest of his brother in court today illustrate the lengths Saudi Arabia will go to in their quest to stop Shia activists from defending their rights. Sheikh al-Nimr must be released and Saudi Arabia must end its systematic discrimination and harassment of the Shia community,” added Amnesty’s Boumedouha.
There are more than 30,000 political prisoners in Saudi Arabia and the number is rapidly growing as increasing numbers of people demand basic rights and reform to the archaic political system. Even the most basic freedoms are not allowed to people.
Apart from the regime’s hangers-on and carpet baggers, the overwhelming majority of others are deprived of virtually all rights. These include lawyers, university professors as well as human rights activists.
Women are especially oppressed. They are not permitted to get a passport with the permission of a male guardian and are prohibited from driving cars because of the alleged “corrupting influence” that would have on Saudi men.
Instead of imparting some basic education to men to improve their manners, the regime tramples on the rights of women. This is done in conjunction with the religious establishment that has been given a free hand in return for its support of the monarchy.
Both the regime and the religious establishment also display visceral hatred of the Shias whom they consider to be heretics and therefore, legitimate targets for killing.
Sheikh Nimr, who is the Imam of al-Awamiyya mosque in Qatif in Eastern Province, has been a bold critic of the regime’s policies and has demanded guarantee of fundamental rights for all people in the kingdom, especially the long-oppressed Shia community.
For this he was arrested in 2011 and kept in solitary confinement for most of the two-year detention period at Al-Ha’ir prison in Riyadh.
While the regime has not decided to carry out the death sentence yet, given its nervousness, it is capable of indulging in the most brutal conduct. Only intense international pressure will force it to desist from its brutal methods.
The upholding of Sheikh Nimr’s sentence once again highlights what is wrong with the Saudi judicial system, indeed the entire system in the primitive kingdom.