Planned execution in Saudi Arabia of juvenile offender stirring up international outrage

Ali Mohammed Nimr.
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Human rights organizations are urging Saudi Arabia to spare the life of a man arrested at 17 for taking part in an Arab Spring protest and sentenced to death 17 months ago.

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Ali Mohammed Nimr, the nephew of a well-known critic of the Saudi government, was arrested in 2012 and held without charge for two years at a prison in Dammam, the Los Angeles Times reports. In a report released last month, Amnesty International says Nimr was tortured into confessing to participating in an illegal protest, attacking security forces, possessing a machine gun, and committing armed robbery. A counter-terrorism court sentenced him to death, and the Supreme Court upheld the decision without Nimr's knowledge or his lawyer's, according to the London-based human rights legal foundation Reprieve.

The government reportedly plans to behead him and display his remains in public, the Times reports, and this can happen at any time unless King Salman decides otherwise. The ruling fails to abide by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which prohibits death sentences or life without parole for crimes allegedly committed by people when they are under the age of 18 (in 2013, Saudi Arabia was appointed to the UN Human Rights Council). At least 134 people have been executed in Saudi Arabia this year, human rights organizations say, with most beheaded or stoned to death in public. Reprieve says Nimr's family was able to visit him in late September, and he told them: "I have faith and I live with hope. If things change [with my sentence], I will thank God. And if not, I lived happily with my hope."

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Catherine Garcia

Catherine Garcia is night editor for Her writing and reporting has appeared in Entertainment Weekly and, The New York Times, The Book of Jezebel, and other publications. A Southern California native, Catherine is a graduate of the University of Redlands and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.