Saudi Arabia is notorious for public beheadings, whippings, torture, wars of aggression and other lawless actions. It remains America’s closest Arab ally.
One rogue state supports another. Both partner in high crimes against peace. Syria and Yemen are Exhibits A and B.
Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr is a prominent nonviolent regime critic.
He’s been beaten, shot, arrested, tortured, denied vitally needed medical treatment, and otherwise abused for expressing his views freely.
Last October, he was sentenced to death unjustly for nonexistent sedition, “seeking foreign meddling in (Saudi affairs), disobeying its rulers, and taking up arms against the security forces.”
Not a shred of evidence supports the outrageous charges. He justifiably criticizes Saudi repressive rule. He calls it “particularly reactionary.”
He opposes violence and “murder in the name of God.” He supports open, free and fair elections. He believes in governance “based on justice and liberty.”
He denounces Saudi mistreatment of Shia Muslims. He enjoys widespread popularity for his views.
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information said Saudi authorities “persecut(ed) Shia reformist Nimr Bakir al-Nimr for his criticism of policies of sectarian discrimination against the Shia in Saudi Arabia and for his call for reform and equality.”
He’s told supporters Saudi “authorities depend on bullets and killing and imprisonment. We must depend on the roar of the word, on the words of justice.”
“We do not accept (violence). This is not our practice…We welcome those who follow such (an) attitude.”
“The weapon of the word is stronger than the power of lead.” He called on authorities to stop bloodshed. He predicted otherwise it would be overthrown.
His trial was a travesty of justice. He was declared guilty by accusation. He had no opportunity to defend himself. Automatic capital punishment sentencing followed. Despotic regimes operate this way.
Amnesty International responded to his death sentence calling it “part of a campaign by the authorities in Saudi Arabia to crush all dissent, including those defending the rights of the Kingdom’s Shia Muslim community.”
It shows how far regime officials “will go in their quest to stop Shia activists from defending their rights.” AI demanded al-Nimr’s release and end to regime “systematic discrimination and harassment of the Shia community.”
His “trial (was) seriously flawed,” said AI. “Eyewitnesses, whose testimonies were the only evidence used against him, were not brought to court to testify. This violates the country’s own laws.”
“The Sheikh was denied the most basic means to prepare for his defence and was not represented by legal counsel for some of the proceedings because the authorities did not inform his lawyer of some dates of the hearings.”
Saudis tolerate no dissent. They crack down hard on all critics. Free and open expression is strictly prohibited.
Shia Rights Watch (SRW) urged the international community to halt al-Nimr’s execution – to pressure Saudis to free all political prisoners, to demand they respect free expression and religion as fundamental human rights.
The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) asked UN officials to intervene on behalf of al-Nimr. He’s Saudi Arabia’s most respected Shia cleric.
Despite his forthcoming execution, Washington and rogue Western allies remain silent.
One phone call from Obama with teeth could stop it. His public hanging was scheduled for May 14.
He may already be dead as this is written. It remains to be seen how Shias react inside the Kingdom and beyond.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His new book is titled “How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War”. www.claritypress.com/Lendman.html Visit his blog site at www.sjlendman.blogspot.com.