Protesters have taken to the streets in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province to express their anger at the Saudi top court’s death verdict against the prominent Shia cleric, Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr.
The demonstrators called for Nimr’s release in a protest rally in the town of Awamiyah on Thursday, vowing to continue their protests until the verdict is overturned.
On October 25, the Saudi court upheld the death sentence issued against the cleric last year. The execution warrant will be sent to Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to be approved and then carried out.
The Interior Ministry can carry out the execution without any prior warning if the Saudi king signs the order.
Nimr was attacked and arrested in the Qatif region of Eastern Province in July 2012, and has been charged with undermining the kingdom’s security, making anti-government speeches, and defending political prisoners. He has denied the accusations.
In October 2014, a Saudi court sentenced Sheikh Nimr to death, provoking widespread global condemnations.
In a recent letter to United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Zeid al-Hussein, the Islamic Human Rights Commission called for exerting pressure on Riyadh to revoke the death sentence and release the cleric immediately.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has also called on Saudi Arabia to halt Nimr’s execution.
Peaceful demonstrations erupted in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province in February 2011, with protesters demanding reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners and an end to widespread discrimination against the people of the oil-rich region. Several people have been killed and many others have been injured or arrested during the demonstrations.
International rights bodies, including Amnesty International, have criticized Saudi Arabia for its grim human rights record, arguing that widespread violations continue unabated in the country.