Shia Muslims all over the world have been demanding the release of Saudi cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr since 2012, when he spoke out against the government’s corruption and oppression of religious minorities.
Sheikh Nimr is an Islamic preacher from the Shia sect, and is very well known for his prominent figure and tendency to discuss controversial topics in his Friday sermons. As of October 2011, the Guardian newspaper described him as “(seeming) to have become the most popular Saudi Shia cleric among local youth”.
One instance of where he criticised Saudi authorities was in response to the happenings of February 2009, where protests broke out in Medina due to differences of customs between Shias and Sunnis while visiting the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad. As a result, many Shia Muslims were arrested between the 4th and 8th March 2009, including six children.
In July 2012, he was shot in the leg and arrested by Saudi authorities while on his way to his house in Qatif in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. In response to his arrest, thousands of Shias protested and many were killed in clashes with Saudi authorities.
Despite the Saudi Press Agency claiming that the cleric was allegedly charged with “instigating unrest”, his brother Mohammed al-Nimr stated that the Interior Ministry has been after Sheikh Nimr for months because of his political opinions – which is highly likely considering the government’s history. Fore example, one of the Saudi Kingdom’s courts has also sentenced Shia cleric Sheikh Tawfiq al-‘Amr for eight years and gave him a ten-year travel ban in addition to banning him from delivering religious sermons.
Pictures were released online by Eastern Province activists showing Sheikh Nimr in a car and covered with a blood-stained white blanket, and according to Press TV, al-Nimr was “tortured, had bruises on his face and had broken teeth”. Activists say there are currently over 30,000 political prisoners in Saudi Arabia.
The 19th July brought news from al-Nimr’s family that he had commenced a hunger strike, which lasted for months, and his court trials are continuously postponed. His last trial, which was on the 16th September 2014, was postponed until 15th October 2014.
We hereby demand the release of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr on the basis that his whole sentence is pure oppression, and we refuse to condone Saudi Arabia’s failure to address the rights situation in the kingdom.