Top Saudi Cleric Faces Death Sentence

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DUBAI: A Saudi prosecutor has demanded the death penalty for prominent pro-democracy cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, who was arrested last year over calls for the release of political prisoners.

Local media reported on Wednesday that the prosecutor, whose name was not mentioned, accused Nimr of ‘aiding terrorists’ and ‘instigating unrest,’ and called for the execution of the popular cleric. 

Sheikh Nimr was attacked, injured and arrested by Saudi security forces en route to his house in the Qatif region of Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province on July 8, 2012. 

The cleric had called for the release of all those detained in protests against the Saudi regime, and all the prisoners of conscience. His arrest sparked protests in Eastern Province. 

Nimr appeared in court earlier this week for the first time since July. 

Nimr supporters say he is a key proponent of equal rights for Shia and Hanafi Muslims of Saudi Arabia who face discrimination in the Wahhabi dominated Kingdom.

Since February 2011, demonstrators have held anti-regime protests on an almost regular basis in Saudi Arabia, mainly in Qatif and the town of Awamiyah in Eastern Province, primarily calling for the release of all political prisoners, freedom of expression and assembly, and an end to widespread discrimination. 

Since November 2011, when Saudi security forces killed five protesters and injured many others in Eastern Province, the demonstrations have turned into protests against the Al Saud regime. 

According to Human Rights Watch, the Riyadh regime “routinely represses expression critical of the government.”

Meanwhile an Iranian lawmaker censured call for the execution of the Sheikh Nimr, saying such a move will create crisis in the kingdom.

Head of the parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Alaeddin Boroujerdi said Friday that Nimr’s execution would enrage millions of Muslims including scholars and Sources of Emulation, and will create a major crisis for Saudi Arabia. 

“It seems unlikely that such a sentence will be carried out…. The Saudi government will definitely take proper measures to prevent it (from being carried out),” he added.

Boroujerdi criticized the silence of international organizations on the decision to execute Sheikh Nimr, saying world bodies adopt a politicized approach towards various issues, ignore human principles, and exercise double standards vis-à-vis prominent Muslim scientists and religious figures. 

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