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nder heavy guard, Ali Mohammed al-Nimr visited his hospitalized father Friday. The photo below of Ali and his father was published on social media accounts managed by representatives of the al-Nimr family shortly after noon eastern time.
It is a rare public glimpse of Ali al-Nimr since his arrest in February 2012 during Arab Spring protests in Saudi Arabia. Ali was 17 when he was arrested, was tortured into signing a confession according to his family and Amnesty International, was found guilty of many charges including terrorism, and was sentenced to be beheaded and his body then crucified. He remains in prison.
His family reports its weekly telephone conversations with the 22-year-old on the same social media accounts that carried the photo of father and son.
Security surrounded the hospital during the visit, it is reported, and Ali al-Nimr is now back in his prison cell.
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Ali al-Nimr’s father, Mohammed al-Nimr, was shot earlier this week by government forces in Al-Awamiyah, a city of about 30,000 in the Qatif region. On May 10, 2017, the Saudi regime started what the media refers to as a “development” project there: power was cut in certain neighborhoods; schools, mosques, and hospitals were shelled; and families displaced. Media reports are few, so casualties are unverified; one reporter writes, “Shooting almost 24h … spreading horror among civilians.” The government’s development plan began with no announcement and continues unabated.
Qatif, in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, is home for almost all of Saudi Arabia’s Shia population. Saudi Arabia’s ruling family is Sunni, as is the rest of the country’s population, so most of the protests against the monarchy the last five years take place near Qatif, and the most violent government crackdowns against protest unfold there.
It was the home base for Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, a religious leader who led protests against the government and was beheaded on January 2, 2016. Mohammed al-Nimr is Sheikh Nimr’s brother and Ali al-Nimr’s father.
Ali al-Nimr was arrested in February 2012 at a protest during the Arab Spring movement. His family and human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Reprieve state that authorities tortured him and forced him to sign a confession that his family declares is “false.” The charges that the government leveled against him are impossibly comic: he was charged with “explaining how to give first aid to protesters,” with using his cell phone to invite others to join him at a protest, with single-handedly stealing every weapon and uniform in a police unit barracks, and then with attacking security forces who came to stop him. He was also charged with armed robbery.
In court, Ali and his legal team did not see the specific charges against him in advance, a conviction followed, and then an appeal was heard in 2015 but he was not informed that an appeal was available so no defense was mustered, which was officially interpreted as yet another confession. The verdict was upheld. His sentence, as stated above, is death by beheading and a crucifixion (the public display of his dead body) to follow.
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He was 17 when he was arrested. In almost every nation, including Saudi Arabia, offenders that age are considered minors. Almost every nation, including Saudi Arabia, has signed an international agreement that authorizes this.
The Convention On The Rights Of The Child
The United Nations re-ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989 and it was brought into force the next year. Saudi Arabia signed it in 1996. The convention declares that every person who is not yet 18 is considered a child and that “the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection.”
Article 37 is of interest, as it concerns imprisonment and the legal systems of countries that have signed the convention, including Saudi Arabia. The second section, “(b)” states, “No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time.” Ali al-Nimr was jailed in 2012.
Section (a) reads: “No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offenses committed by persons below eighteen years of age.”
In closing I’ll leave you with this photo of the condemned young man, and his Father, grinning together, holding hands, their love for one another obvious to all but the hateful eye, taken during a hospital stay.
زارني قبل قليل في مستشفى #القطيف الولد #علي_النمر
والتقى والدته وأفراد العائلة بحضور رجال الأمن
شكرا لأصحاب السمو الملكي وكل من سهل الزيارة. pic.twitter.com/V3TYlfQoXn
— محمد النمرm. alnemer (@mbanalnemer) June 16, 2017
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Take away the regional garb, and this could be any American boy visiting his Dad in the hospital after some accident. And now, let me remind you, that if they follow through on his sentence, that boy who was taken from that father while still a child, will soon be beheaded, and his body crucified in a medieval display meant to inspire terror. A warning to all who would expect justice in Saudi Arabia that none exists. We should take it as a warning too – any nation that cannot respect the human rights or life of a child, or find justice even for a child, cannot respect the human rights of anyone, nor find justice for anyone at all.