Saudi Arabia frees young Shia ex-death row prisoner al-Nimr after 9 years

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The photo shows Ali Mohammed al-Nimr shortly after his release from prison.

Amid an international outcry over Saudi Arabia’s crackdown on dissent, the kingdom has released Ali al-Nimr, a young Shia man who spent a decade in prison for attending anti-government protests and received a death penalty that was later rescinded.

Ali Mohammed al-Nimr was released on Wednesday, following Saudi Arabia’s decision to commute death sentences for individuals who committed alleged crimes while minors.

Nimr’s freedom was welcomed by independent UN human rights experts.

“Ali al-Nimr, a young man detained since 2012 for participating in protests when he was a child, and who previously faced a death sentence, has been released today,” ALQST for Human Rights said on Twitter.

Nimr’s uncle, Jaafar al-Nimr, posted a picture of his nephew on Twitter shortly after leaving prison.

“Ali al-Nimr to freedom...praise be to God for your safety,” he tweeted.

Nimr’s sister also tweeted, “After ten years, my brother is free, thank God.”

Nimr was arrested during an anti-government protest in the Shia-majority Qatif region, Eastern Province, back in 2012 when he was only 17 years old. He was later convicted of alleged criminal activities and handed down a death penalty along with two other underage Shia men, Abdullah al-Zaher and Dawood Marhoon, by Saudi Arabia’s Specialized Criminal Court in May 2015.

Nimer is the nephew of the late prominent Shia cleric, Ayatollah Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, who was executed in January 2016. The killing of Sheikh Nimr caused a global uproar against Saudi Arabia’s crackdown on minorities, especially the Shia Muslims that account for more than 20 percent of the Saudi population.

In April 2020, Saudi Arabia announced that it would stop imposing death sentences on people guilty of crimes committed when they were under the age of 18.

Riyadh has been under fire for having one of the world’s highest execution rates. The kingdom also faces criticism for restricting the access of the country’s Shia minority to public education, employment and the justice system.

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